Wed, Feb 28, 2007 - Page 4 News List

The 228 Incident: Sixty years on - Taipei documentary provokes outrage

CONTROVERSY The Taipei City Government's film about the clash that sparked the 228 Incident has angered Juan Mei-shu, who says it is an attempt to rewrite history

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

When the documentary Searching for the Silent Mother of the 228 Incident -- Lin Chiang-mai (尋找二二八的沈默母親林江邁) was released in December, Juan Mei-shu (阮美姝) -- a relative of one of the incident's victims -- was dumbfounded.

The documentary, sponsored by Taipei City Government's Department of Cultural Affairs during former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) term, focuses on what happened to Lin Chiang-mai on the night of Feb 27, 1947 -- as recalled by her daughter, Lin Ming-chu (林明珠).

Textbooks largely agree that the 228 Incident was sparked by a conflict between anti-contraband officers and locals as the officers tried to confiscate Lin Chiang-mai's black-market cigarettes.

In the documentary, Lin Ming-chu, who claims she was present when the conflict took place, says it was the result of a simple misunderstanding. She says the locals, most of whom spoke Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), thought one of the Mandarin-speaking officers was refusing to pay for his tobacco.

Juan, however, who lost her father in in the incident, feels that Lin Ming-chu's account is an attempt to rewrite history.

"The content of the documentary and the brochure that accompanies it is completely contrary to what Lin Ming-chu and [her uncle] Lin Pao-lo (林匏螺) told me when I was researching the 228 Incident. The documentary seriously twists the historical facts," Juan said at a press conference on Monday at the scene of the conflict that took place six decades ago.

This was the second press conference Juan has held to criticize the documentary since she declared her "retirement" from 228 Incident research in June.

The first press conference was held at the legislature last month, but did not attract too much media attention. This time, Juan decided to take members of the media on a trip down memory lane.

Although the Tien Ma Tea Room (天馬茶房) -- which was located on the intersection of Nanjing W Road and Yenping N Road -- was torn down at the end of 2005, Kenjohn Wang (王桂榮), founder of the Taiwanese American Foundation, said he could still remember where Lin Chiang-mai had set up her tobacco stand.

Seventy-five-year-old Wang, who flew back from the US for the press conference, said he was selling cigarettes next to Lin when the conflict took place.

Wang said that he saw an anti-contraband police officer hit Lin Chiang-mai on the head with his gun after struggling to take some cigarettes from her.

Wang added that he had not seen Lin Ming-chu at the scene and doubted that she knew what had actually happened.

Huang Shou-li (黃守禮), a former professor at Chung Yuan Christian University who was also at the scene, agreed that Lin Ming-chu had not been present.

Wang Yi-chun (王逸群), a division chief at the Taipei City Government's Department of Cultural Affairs, defended the documentary yesterday.

"People have different interpretations of history. Our documentary chronicles Lin and her daughters' involvement in the 228 Incident and how it affected their lives," Wang Yi-chun said.

Hsieh Ying-tseng (謝英從), director of the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum, said the documentary did not violate the principle of narrative history because Lin Ming-chu had never claimed that her words had been twisted.

The department had made the documentary so as to preserve the historical record, he said, adding that whether the narrative matches the historical facts should be left to historians to verify.

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