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Mon, May 15, 2000 - Page 4 News List

228 museum protests city decision on future

BITTER MEMORIES Debate still rages over the significance of the 228 Incident, as shown by a public spat between the Taipei City Government and the 228 Memorial Museum's director

By Cheryl Lai  /  STAFF REPORTER

The recent fallout between Iap Phok-bun, above, director of Taipei's 228 Memorial Museum and Lung Ying-tai, founding director of the city's Cultural Affairs Bureau, has stirred up ethnic tensions, arguments over the museum's role, and now a third round of bidding to take over managment of the museum.


Earlier this month, officials from Taipei's 228 Memorial Museum (台北二二八紀念館) held what they termed a "graduation exhibition." Unlike most graduations, the event was neither festive nor a celebration. It was a protest.

On May 31 the Taipei City Government -- which owns the facility -- decided to terminate its management contract with the current steering organization of the museum, the Taiwan Peace Foundation (TPF, 台灣和平基金會).

The termination, while dubbed by the local press as a "When Sally meets Harry" style fallout between Iap Phok-bun (葉博文), first director of the museum, and Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), the founding head of Taipei City's Cultural Affairs Bureau, was actually a lot more than just a fallout.

It was the first failed experiment of a private organization's involvement in public affairs.

The reasons why are many

Some critics of the failure have said the cancellation was clearly an ethnic dispute, a clash between the foundation's pro-Taiwan ideology and Lung's "greater China bias." Others say it is because the administrative procedures of the city government are incompatible with those of the private sector.

Or maybe, again, as some have said, it is part of a political struggle between the KMT and the DPP, a continuation of the war of words between native Taiwanese and mainlanders over the political legacy of the 228 Incident.

The 228 Incident refers to a brutal military crackdown that followed civilian protests which broke out on Feb. 28, 1947 against the corrupt administration of Chen Yi (陳儀).

Chen had been appointed governor of Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), ostensibly to assist in the rebuilding of Taiwan after World War II.

Many of Taiwan's most prominent citizens and leading intellectuals were dragged from their homes, some to be killed on the spot, others to simply disappear, presumably executed. Mainlanders were also killed in the Incident, and estimates put the total death toll in the tens of thousands.

Up until recent years, even talking about the Incident was taboo in Taiwan. Successive KMT presidents painted the Incident as a "communist rebellion," rather than what it really was, a legitimate protest against a corrupt government. The martial law regime which ensued, continued to use brutality and suppression for several decades in what was known as the period of "White Terror."

A breakthrough on the sensitive issue did not come about until KMT President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) made a public apology to victims' families at the unveiling ceremony of the 228 monument in 1997, on the 50th anniversary of the Incident -- nine years after martial law was lifted.

As the first city-owned, privately-run (公辦民營) institution, the 228 museum was established just one day before Lee's apology, during Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) term as Taipei mayor. Chen lost his re-election bid to current KMT mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in December 1998.

The actions of Chen and Lee during that period were seen as a struggle to gain the popular support of native Taiwanese, analysts say.

Iap Phok-bun

The museum's steering committee is comprised of many Taiwanese celebrities, including Chen's present national policy advisers Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) and Bo Yang (柏楊), one of Taiwan's most renowned writers and also a former political prisoner.

Iap Phok-bun, a cultural figure and one of the organization's founders, was invited to serve as not only the museum's director but the executive-general of foundation.

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