Pro-independence groups share `228' story with US

EYE-OPENER: A former US deputy assistant secretary of state for China and Taiwan said knowledge of the 228 Incident could help to shape US policy

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Sat, Feb 24, 2007 - Page 1

The 228 Incident and the White Terror came under searing examination in Washington on Thursday during a half-day seminar at the Brookings Institute.

At the seminar, independence activist Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) called on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to ask Taiwanese for forgiveness "from the bottom of their hearts" and had some harsh words for former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

The seminar, organized by former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush, now with Brookings, and the pro-independence Formosa Association for Public Affairs, came as Taiwanese-Americans begin a week-long commemoration of the 1947 massacre, in which KMT troops killed an estimated 28,000 Taiwanese in a matter of weeks.

Calling the 228 Incident a "ghost that lives in the collective conscience of the people of Taiwan," Peng said: "Only the victim has the right to ask for forgiveness. The offender has no right to ask for forgiveness."

Afterwards he explained that he meant that only the victims of the 228 Incident and the White Terror, in which the KMT imposed repressive martial law for four decades, have the right to demand that the KMT ask for forgiveness. The KMT's requests for forgiveness are empty, he said.

"When you commit certain crimes, only the victims should say, `Oh, this should be forgiven.' The offender can beg their pardon, can beg their mercy, [but cannot decide when their acts are forgiven]," Peng said.

Politicking

Peng dismissed Ma's annual visits to families of victims on the anniversary of the 228 Incident -- a practice Ma began when he was Taipei mayor -- as an inadequate gesture that had more to with politicking than actual regret.

Peng said Ma's "credibility is almost at zero."

"He is insincere in that he only wants to get votes," Peng added.

In other presentations, Randall Schriver, former deputy assistant secretary of state for China and Taiwan, said that Washington might have acted more sensitively toward President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) recent moves to change the names of Taiwanese firms and advocate constitutional reform if they had known more about the 228 Incident.

Drake University professor Lin Tsung-kuang (林宗光), whose father Lin Mao-sheng (林茂生) was one of the earliest and most prominent Taiwanese academics killed by the KMT in the wake of the 228 Incident, drew parallels between 1947 and today's cross-strait tension. He warned that Taiwan "should do its best to prevent 228 from happening again," a reference to a possible Chinese invasion.

Documentary

The seminar began with a riveting video of Taiwan in the 1940s, the 228 Incident and its bloody consequences.

Punctuated by bodies of people killed by KMT troops floating in fetid waters and muddy fields, the video contrasted a relatively prosperous pre-KMT Taiwan under Japanese rule with the era of KMT murders, rapes, looting and persecution of the native Taiwanese.

In an interview, one victim -- a miner who also swept floors at a police station -- told of being hustled away, his hands pierced by wires used to clamp them together, and being thrown "in the ocean" where KMT troops shot at him and others. The bullets missed him and he clung to a log that eventually bore him ashore.

The seminar was the first in a week-long series of events that are intended to educate people in Washington about the 228 Incident. Some 200 Taiwanese-Americans will travel together from Philadelphia to Washington this weekend.

They will meet members of Congress on Monday, and stage a walk and run through the capitol on Feb. 28, culminating in a memorial service in the Rayburn House Office Building -- a congressional office building -- that afternoon.

Taiwanese-Americans in the Washington area will hold a commemorative service at a Washington suburban church today, featuring an address by Taiwan's de-facto ambassador to the US, David Lee (李大維).

One congressional source also told the Taipei Times that certain congressmen were considering introducing a pro-Taiwan bill on Feb. 28 as a symbolic gesture.