Wed, Feb 28, 2007 - Page 3 News List

The 228 Incident: Sixty years on - Sixty years on, answers remain elusive

MASSACRE MEMORIES Every year on March 10, Lee Rong-chang's family sits down to a meal of squid congee, in memory of a dinner his father was never to finish in 1947

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lee Rong-chang (李榮昌) will never forget March 10, 1947. It was about 5pm and he and his family were ready to have squid congee for dinner. Five plain-clothes policemen and a soldier came into their house and asked for his father, Lee Ruei-han (李瑞漢), who was a practicing lawyer.

The men said their boss -- Chen Yi (陳儀), then Taiwan's executive administrator -- wanted to talk to him. Lee Ruei-han went with them and told his family not to worry.

He never came back.

Every year on March 10, Lee's family has squid congee to commemorate the loss of their father. The family still does not know what happened to him.

They suspected his disappearance might have had something to do with his advocacy of judicial independence and call for hiring Taiwanese people in government agencies.

Sixty years have passed since the 228 Incident took place, but the whole truth behind the massacre and the events which followed during the White Terror era still remain shrouded in mystery.

228 Incident

The 228 Incident was a military crackdown on civilian protests that started on Feb. 27, 1947, against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration.

Historians estimate that around 30,000 people were killed.

Textbooks usually portray the incident as the result of a conflict between anti-contraband officers and local people after officials attempted to confiscate cigarette products from a vendor named Lin Chiang-mai (林江邁), who did not have a sales permit from the government.

After she was injured and a bystander was killed, crowds of demonstrators demanded that the killers be punished. The protesters were met with gunfire, igniting widespread public protest the following day.

Military assistance

To resolve the conflict, Chen requested military assistance from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), who later dispatched troops to Taiwan.

Tens of thousands of people were either killed, injured or went missing within months of the crackdown, the greatest losses were reported in Keelung, Taipei, Chiayi and Kaohsiung.

While some of the facts remain unclear, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) stirred up more controversy when he said that the incident had been an ethnic conflict brought about by local government "officials," who pushed people into rebelling, rather than being the result of the KMT's or Chiang's actions.

The Taipei City Government released a documentary earlier this year in which the incident is interpreted as "a pure misunderstanding resulting from language barriers." The 228 Memorial Foundation published a book in February last year claiming that the KMT should be held responsible for the 1947 massacre, because its leader at the time, Chiang, as well as Chen Yi, the man he had appointed executive administrator of Taiwan, had been the masterminds behind the incident.

KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴), a grandson of Chiang Kai-shek, has criticized the report as being politically motivated and sued the writers for libel. He is appealing after the court ruled against him.

John Chiang has also said that he planned to sue President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for calling his grandfather a murderer.

White Terror

What followed the 228 massacre has been labeled the White Terror era. Numerous people were arrested and more lives were lost when martial law was declared.

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