Chen blasts Chiang over 228 role

ASSIGNING BLAME: The president had strong words for the former KMT authoritarian regime, and said many people who committed atrocities had not yet been punished

By Ko Shu-ling and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH AGENCIES

Tue, Feb 27, 2007 - Page 1

Former dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) was a "murderer" and the people responsible for the bloody 228 Incident should stand trial for their crimes, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday.

Chen delivered the blunt criticism of Taiwan's former authoritarian regime and its leaders at the opening of a forum held in remembrance of the massacre, in which tens of thousands of civilians were slain by government forces beginning on Feb. 27, 1947.

"[The 228 Incident] is not only a historical event, the mass killing also involves criminal and legal issues," Chen said.

"The people responsible for violating human rights should be prosecuted and stand trial," the president said.

Chiang, the president said, was ultimately responsible for the massacre, as he ordered soldiers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime to suppress the uprising, which began after a confrontation between a woman selling black-market tobacco and government inspectors turned violent.

"[History] shows clearly that former Chinese Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek was the true murderer behind the 228 Incident," Chen said.

The two-day forum was organized by the 228 Incident Memorial Foundation to mark the 60th anniversary of the massacre.

Chen vowed to "gradually tackle" the legacy of authoritarian rule, including renaming Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the presidential burial sites, where Chiang and his son are buried.

The president described the two burial sites as "feudal products that do not conform to democratic trends," and calling the memorial hall a "building with a strong tinge of one-party rule."

"We expect to encounter opposition and obstruction, but we believe fairness and justice will eventually prevail," he said. "We hope the people will make the right choice and help us build the country into a more normal, complete, beautiful and advanced nation."

The 228 Incident was not merely a misunderstanding, as some people claimed, Chen said, but was part of a deliberate policy by a "foreign, authoritarian regime" to suppress the people of Taiwan.

Chen was referring to remarks made by former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who described the massacre as a "crackdown" carried out by the KMT in response to missteps by local officials.

Chen said that if this had been true, there would have been no need for the Martial Law Era and subsequent dictatorial rule that lasted for 38 years.

"Such an argument is an attempt to cover up the atrocities committed by a dictatorship, and is revision of history by the perpetrators," he said, adding that such an argument cannot be accepted nor understood by the Taiwanese people.

Saying it was an undisputed fact that Chiang had ordered the military crackdown, Chen said he felt sorry for the victims and their families, because the perpetrators of the incident and their families still enjoy "imperial treatment," and have not been brought to justice.

Meanwhile, KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) -- a grandson of Chiang Kai-shek -- said that he is considering suing Chen for calling his grandfather a murderer.

The lawmaker said he would also sue Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun, who made similar remarks yesterday.

"No one is above the law," John Chiang said, adding that assigning blame for 228 was not something that politicians should do.

"I will consult my lawyer and file suit against Chen if what he said constitutes defamation," he added.

The president's remarks drew the ire of pan-blue politicians.

Ma Ying-jeou urged the DPP not to use the 228 Incident as a weapon in its struggle against its rivals.

"[That is] not what a responsible party should do: Launch a political struggle, rather than come up with measures to deal with the aftermath of the incident," Ma said.

Meanwhile, responding to Chen's comment that he planned to rename CKS Memorial Hall and the presidential burial sites, KMT lawmakers called the move "Chen's electoral manipulation."

KMT Legislator Alex Fei (費鴻泰) told the press that history would dub Chen a bad man if he denied the contributions Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) made to the country.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) urged further probes into the 228 Incident. She said that efforts to uncover the truth were not about creating grudges.

The KMT, seeking to address criticism over its role in the massacre, will hold a concert today and invite incident survivors.

also see stories:

Premier says 228 report is a definitive document

Remembering is key to the future

228 crucial to Taiwan's political landscape