Fri, Feb 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Remembering 228: Facing a violent past

As two men gave their accounts about what happened to them and their families after Feb. 27, 1947, the chairman of Taipei City's 228 Incident Association describes the responsibilities of the organization

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Attendees light up lily-shaped candles at Taipei's 228 Peace Park during a ceremony last night in memory of the 228 Incident.


The 75-year-old Liao Te-sung (廖德雄) will never forget about Feb. 28, 1947.

He was a 19-year-old student at the Taipei Commercial School and chairman of the student union. He and 700 students joined a march to protest against the KMT troops.

"I saw military police armed with machine guns and deployed on top of the police headquartersbuilding," he said. "They started to fire shots at the crowd. I can still remember the smoke coming out of the machine guns and the panic of the crowd."

Liao, chairman of Taipei City's 228 Incident Association (台北市二二八協會), has dedicated his life to helping victims of the incident and their families to come to terms with their past and to seek compensation for the persecution they had to endure during the martial law era.

Born to a 11-member family in Taichung County, Liao's interest in social movements had a lot to do with his late father, Liao Chin-ping (廖進平), who was a democratic trailblazer.

In 1921, the elder Liao met Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) at the Taiwan Culture Association (台灣文化協會). The association was founded by a group of intellectuals and ignited a wave of social movements when the country was under Japanese colonial rule.

Together, they formed the country's first political party, the Taiwan People's Party (台灣民眾黨), with another founder of the association, Lin Hsien-tang (林獻堂).

The association, however, to split into two factions -- a socialist faction and an anti-imperialism faction -- in 1927 and eventually disbanded in 1931.

In addition to his many previous arrests, the elder Liao was eventually taken away by military police in 1947 and never returned. Liao Te-sung was 20 at that time.

Liao Te-sung also played an active role during the 228 Incident. He was one of the student representatives who negotiated with the government and made the "32 requests."

He was also one of the leaders of a volunteer community squad set up to maintain social order.

Because of his involvement in the 228 Incident, Liao Te-sung was arrested in October 1947 and put in custody for 50 days.

The government's effort

As the first appointed executive director of the Cabinet's ad hoc Memorial Foundation of the 228 Incident (二二八事件紀念基金會) since the peaceful transfer of power in 2000, Lee Wang-tai (李旺臺) knows first-hand about the true feelings of the victims' families.

Three or four times a week, Lee visits victims' families across the nation to show them how the DPP-led government identifies with their pain and how it cares about the loss of their loved ones.

"I feel like a nurse healing the wounds of the injured," said Lee sitting in his ninth-floor downtown Taipei office. "I remember a victim living down in Hualien County. He was put behind bars for two years simply because he was singing Japanese songs and wearing Japanese clogs."

He also talked about a family in Tainan County.

"I vividly remember the frightened look on the face of one of the old ladies. She thought I was someone from the Investigation Bureau or National Security Bureau to question her about the 228 Incident," he said.

After he managed to gain her trust, the woman burst into tears and started to tell him how much she and her family had suffered over the years after the death of her husband, who was executed because of his involvement in community patrols.

"She and her family had literally lived an isolated life for more than half a decade because not a single member of her relatives dared to have any contact with her," Lee said. "In addition to the constant visits of police and investigators, they were blacklisted and banned from going abroad or getting a promotion."

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