The government’s ongoing push for transitional justice is intended to ensure that Taiwanese can live in a censor-free society without fear of being punished by an authoritarian government, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday at a memorial ceremony to mark the 72nd anniversary of the 228 Incident.
Tsai said that as she arrived at the ceremony at Taipei’s 228 Peace Memorial Park she saw many young children and their parents enjoying a day off due to the national holiday.
The government is pushing to implement transitional justice to ensure that all Taiwanese live in a censor-free society “where people can read whatever they like and express their views without fear of being taken away by police in the middle of the night,” she said, referring to what happened to many during a brutal crackdown on an anti-government uprising in 1947 and the decades-long White Terror era that followed.
The 228 Incident was triggered by a clash between government officials and an illegal cigarette vendor in Taipei on Feb. 27, 1947, leading to protests a day later that were violently suppressed.
The crackdown triggered a broader anti-government uprising that was put down by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) military forces.
An estimated 18,000 to 28,000 people were killed during the crackdown, which lasted into early May that year, a 1992 investigation commissioned by the Executive Yuan found.
Since Taiwan became a democracy, successive governments have made efforts to implement transitional justice, including admitting wrongdoing, issuing apologies to victims of the Incident, launching investigations and paying compensation, Tsai said.
This is an ongoing process as the government works to identify more potential victims of the Incident who were previously unrecorded, she said, adding that it would issue a new report later this year on the crackdown.
The 228 Memorial Foundation has already compiled a list of 400 people who might have been victims of the Incident, but whose families have yet to file for compensation, she said.
“This shows that we still have an insufficient understanding of the truth of that history,” Tsai said.
The president said that she does not subscribe to the view that such efforts are made as a means for the Democratic Progressive Party to score political points.
“Every democratic nation has to face the wounds of authoritarian rule. Psychological and emotional trauma will not heal itself,” Tsai said.
These measures are intended to serve as a reminder that the same mistakes would not be made again, she told the ceremony, which was attended by Incident victims and their families.
People lined up to pay tribute to the victims, laying lilies on a monument in the park.
Among the participants at the event was a four-person parliamentary delegation from Germany headed by Germany-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group chairman Klaus-Peter Willsch.
Attending the event was a show of respect to the victims of the Incident, which ultimately paved the way for freedom, democracy and rule of law in Taiwan, Willsch told reporters.
Promoting transitional justice has always been important for his country and Germany can work closely with Taiwan, he said.
Willsch said that he was accompanied on his previous visit in May last year by German Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic Roland Jahn to share his country’s experience in this area with local authorities.
The agency preserves and protects archives, and investigates the past actions of the former State Security Service, commonly known as the Stasi, which served as a secret police and foreign intelligence organization in communist-ruled East Germany.
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