The government is obligated to uncover the truth behind the 228 Massacre and relieve the pain of victims’ families, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday, dismissing comments by former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) earlier this week that cast doubt on the number of people killed in the incident.
Ma, attending an exhibition in Taipei in memory of members of the judiciary killed in the massacre, acknowledged the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime’s poor handling of the incident and said his administration would continue efforts to uncover the historical truth, learn lessons and avoid making the same mistakes.
“The focus is not on the number of the people that were killed ... The then-government mishandled the incident and of course the government is responsible for the consequences,” he said at Taipei’s 228 Memorial Museum.
The president’s remarks came amid a recent dispute over Hau’s comments that only about 500 people — instead of the commonly seen estimates of about 30,000 — were killed during the massacre.
In a Chinese-language op-ed piece published in the United Daily News on Tuesday, Hau challenged the content of a history textbook which states that more than 10,000 people were killed during the 228 Massacre and said that in his view, only a little more than 500 people were killed in the crackdown.
The 228 Massacre refers to a nationwide uprising against the KMT regime that broke out on Feb. 27, 1947, two years after the KMT took over Taiwan, because of government corruption and economic hardships.
The op-ed drew a strong reaction from victims’ families, who criticized Hau for what they said were distortions of the truth.
Ma, who has emphasized his efforts to uncover the truths about the incident, dismissed Hau’s comments for the first time yesterday.
Family members of the victims who attended the exhibition yesterday also condemned Hau, urging him not to rub salt into their wounds.
“The actual number of victims is not the most important issue here, but no one should take advantage of the massacre,” said Wang Ke-shao (王克紹), whose father was taken by the KMT during the incident, never to return home.
“The number of people who were killed in the incident is clearly stated, it was between 18,000 and 28,000,” he said.
Wang said his father, the first Taiwanese to serve as a prosecutor in Japan, was taken away by the KMT on March 14, 1947, for reasons that were never disclosed.
While agreeing with the government that the massacre was not a confrontation between ethnic groups, he demanded that government documents be released and that an archive be established that is accessible to families of the victims.
“At least let me know when my father died, where he died and what the crimes he was accused of were,” he said.
Attending the exhibition, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), the son of Hau Pei-tsun, declined to comment on his father’s controversial remarks while insisting that the government should be devoted to uncovering the truth.
“The truths of the 228 Massacre should be uncovered and we should learn the lessons. More importantly, we must be sympathetic about the hardship and the pain of the victims’ families,” he said.
The 228 exhibition displays manuscripts and artifacts from members of the judiciary who were killed in the uprising.
The exhibition reminds the government of the serious consequences of incorrect policy decisions and it helps memorialize the spirits of the dead, said Hau Lung-bin, who organized the event.