It was a sunny February morning at Taipei City’s 228 Peace Park and the music of Ennio Morricone melody Gabriel’s Oboe, played by Ho Chung-mom (何忠謀), touched the hearts of those attending this year’s memorial service to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the 228 Massacre.
Ho, invited by the city government to play trumpet at the memorial service, is the great-grandson of democratic trailblazer Wang Tien-deng (王添).
The tea farmer-turned-politician was the public relations officer of the 228 Committee, set up after the 228 Incident to negotiate with the authoritarian Chinese Nationalist Party KMT (KMT) regime.
The 228 Incident refers to the uprising against the then-KMT government that began on Feb. 27, 1947, and ushered in a period of White Terror in which thousands of intellectuals were dragged from their homes and killed or vanished without explanation.
Wang Tien-deng drafted the “32 requests” and negotiated with then-executive administrator of Taiwan Chen Yi (陳儀). Today, the “32 requests” are considered to represent the fundamental desire for democracy in Taiwan, encompassing the non-party movement initiated by dissidents before the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed in 1986.
After Chen Yi turned down the requests, Wang went on air at a radio station located inside what is now 228 Peace Park to reveal their meeting.
On March 11, 1947, Wang was arrested at home and never seen again. His body has never been found. Official records showed that the authorities branded Wang a “traitor instigating treason.” It is believed that he was executed without trial and his remains incinerated. Historians estimate that about 30,000 people were killed during this period, but officials place the number at 17,000.
Sixty-three years after his great-grandfather’s death, the 27-year-old Ho did not seem to be bothered too much by the tragedy.
“It happened so many generations ago ... It does not help to live in the past no matter how painful it is,” he said.
Ho said that what he learned about his great-grandfather mainly came from his grandmother, who was Wang’s oldest daughter.
While playing the trumpet at the memorial service, Ho said he was thinking of his grandmother with gratitude and remembrance in his heart for those who fought and lost their lives for Taiwanese democracy.
“My great-grandfather is a hero,” he said. “[His memory] taught me to follow my conscience and do the right thing.”
Ho said that his generation does not care too much about politics. As long as politicians do their job and make the country a better place, he does not care whether they are KMT or DPP, he said.
In his mind, it is meaningless to argue about Taiwan’s statehood when it is already a country. What Ho believes is that more Taiwanese need to accept its sovereignty because only then will the international community be forced to acknowledge the fact.
“Anyone who claims he loves Taiwan should stay here and work for a better future,” he said. “My father is a KMT member, and he loves Taiwan with all his heart.”
Ho said his mother Huang Hsiu-wan (黃秀婉) is a loyal KMT member and his father a retired KMT employee from China.
He said his mother still gets emotional when she talks about the hardship her family had to endure after her grandfather was arrested.
“It was very hard,” she said, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
With the loss of their main breadwinner, the family found itself in financial difficulties, she said. Wang had seven children, the youngest just four years old, and Huang’s mother was 18 when he was taken away.
Like other victims’ families, Huang said she wanted to know more about what happened to her grandfather.
“The government has never told us why he was taken away or what happened to him afterwards,” she said. “It is still a mystery why he deserved all this and where his body is.”
Huang said she did not hold grudges against the KMT because it was history. She also believes that both the KMT and the DPP governments have made efforts to help victims’ families come to terms with the tragic past.
However, Huang said she would like to see the government visit more families to collect more first-hand accounts of the victims. She said that the official chronicle on her grandfather was incorrect, but the family’s complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
Huang’s mother, who witnessed the arrest of her father, however, has never forgiven the KMT, Huang said.
Huang said she could understand why her mother was still bitter about what happened, but she would like to see more people work together for the future of Taiwan so that the sacrifices her grandfather and others made would not have been in vain.
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