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

Most of the victims were prominent Taiwanese, including lawyers, prosecutors, doctors, professors and media workers.

There is no official tally of the number of people who were jailed, went missing or lost their lives.

A private group dedicated to investigating the early years of the White Terror era, from 1949 to 1954, placed the number of deaths at 4,000. The group estimated 150,000 people were jailed and 120,000 went missing.

After Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops lost the civil war to the Communists and withdrew to Taiwan in 1949, the KMT regime launched a nationwide campaign to "eliminate communist spies."

Suspects were either executed without proper trials or sent to Green Island for "rehabilitation."

Those who survived found it difficult to fit into society and were under constant surveillance.

They were isolated because no one dared to associate with them and they were frequently refused promotion at work because of their "tainted" background.


Declassified documents indicate that the KMT had provided the Taiwan Garrison Command with lists of names of "scoundrels" who had to be eliminated following the 228 Incident.

It remains a mystery who provided the lists, which names were on the lists and who carried out the operation.

Efforts to study the 228 Incident did not begin until 1987, when martial law was lifted. The government did not apologize to victims' families until former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) came to power in 1988.

Lee ordered the Cabinet to form an ad hoc foundation to offer subsidies to victims and their families.

Figures released by the foundation show that it has distributed more than NT$7.1 billion (US$215.3 million) to 9,420 victims and their families since its establishment in 1995.

As of December last year, the foundation had received 2,756 claims, 2,264 of which have been deemed valid, while 464 were turned down because of insufficient evidence.

President Chen has also apologized on behalf of the government and has announced plans to turn the ad hoc foundation into a standing body.

He also designated Feb. 28 as a national holiday, erected a national 228 monument, established a national museum, declassified documents relating to the massacre and presented national certifications to victims and their families to restore the reputations of people who had been dubbed "hooligans" during the KMT's reign.

During Chen Shui-bian's term as Taipei mayor, he established a municipal 228 museum and turned the Taipei New Park into the 228 Peace Park.

Despite the government's apologies, some relatives still cannot forgive the government, saying that surviving perpetrators behind the regime of repression remain unknown and unpunished.

Some have urged the government to amend school textbooks to reflect the facts of the incident, but many just want the truth. Kenneth Wang (王克雄) is one of them.

Wang's father was taken away on March 14, 1947. His family still do not know what happened to him. Kenneth Wang was only two years old and his younger brother three months when the incident took place.

His family originally did not know Lee Rong-chang, but the same fate brought the two families together. The Wangs moved in with Lee Rong-chang's family so they could take care of each other. Together, the two families and many others living in the same neighborhood who had also lost family members launched a desperate but futile search for their loved ones.

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