Wed, Feb 28, 2007 - Page 4 News List

The 228 Incident: Sixty years on - KMT's 228 regrets are perhaps a step forward

A START Ma Ying-jeou, for one, has attempted to communicate with the victims of the party's brutality, but for each convert there is a sceptic

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sixty years after the 228 Incident took the lives of tens of thousands of people, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has finally acknowledged its missteps in the 1990s and sought to work toward reconciliation with victims and their families.

A public apology to the victims' families from former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) a decade ago and former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), as well as former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) efforts in recent years to communicate with the bereaved have helped many to transcend resentment.

However, the road to full reconciliation remains bumpy, as the grief and anger that the violence generated has yet to subside, and the KMT needs to display more sincerity in acknowledging the past, while devoting more effort to uncovering the truth behind the incident, critics said.

"It's better that they hold these memorial events than not at all, but the pain has not gone away. People think they knew the history of 228 through singing and dancing. They know nothing," said 80-year-old Juan Mei-shu (阮美姝), who lost her father during the 228 Incident.

In the search for the truth behind her father's death, Juan published books revealing new information and accusing Ma of distorting the truth in a Taipei City Government-funded 228 Incident documentary. She also blamed both the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for failing to educate the public about the event.

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), produced by KMT Communication and Culture Committee director Yang Tu (楊渡), claimed that Lin's daughter, Lin Ming-chu (林明珠), said that conflict between soldiers and the local population was purely the result of the language gap.

"It wasn't just about a language barrier, and the documentary didn't reflect the truth. We need to educate the next generations about the 228 Incident and continue to reveal the truth. Without the truth, I don't know how to forgive," she said.

The 228 Incident remained largely a taboo subject until director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) made the seminal film City of Sadness, which depicted the impact of the 228 Incident on residents of a Taipei County town.

Ma has attempted to build relationships with victims and family members by initiating dialogue through various private meetings.

He has faced opposition from a number of family members who have dismissed him and refuse to accept the invitations, but Ma has persevered.

"The KMT is responsible for the 228 Incident. But we need to realize that the tragedy didn't result from ethnic conflict. It's a civilian rebellion against government suppression," Ma said during a KMT memorial service at the 228 Memorial Park on Sunday.

Historian Lai Tse-han (賴澤涵), author of the English-language A Tragic Beginning, an early account of the 228 Incident, criticized Ma's remarks as lacking understanding of the complexity behind the events.

"The KMT still has little knowledge of the incident. The party should not be so careless in responding to a complex event," he said.

Lee Shiao-feng (李筱峰), a history professor at Shih Hsin University, agreed that Ma's argument did not stand up to examination and was a way of evading responsibility.

Although sharing dissatisfaction with the KMT, Taipei 228 Incident Association director Liao Chi-pin (廖繼斌) acknowledged the party's efforts to accept responsibility and reconcile with victims. He added that the time for forgiveness had arrived and that people should seek to improve relations between Taiwan's ethnic groups.

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