The question of the degree to which the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) should shoulder responsibility for the 228 Incident is to be ruled on in the Taiwan High Court on March 9.
The Taipei District Court has already rejected a case brought by the families of 108 victims, ruling that the massacre was ordered by the government of the day and was unrelated to the KMT per se.
Several academics yesterday expressed disagreement with the district court’s decision, saying that the 228 Incident occurred during the Period of Political Tutelage (訓政時期) in which the five branches of government all answered directly to the KMT -Central Executive Committee (CEC). According to this interpretation, the KMT is directly responsible.
Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元), a professor of history at National Chengchi University, told a seminar held by the Taiwan Association of University Professors on the KMT’s role in the 228 Incident that the government has already apologized and paid compensation, but questions remain about the KMT’s role.
Hsueh said that at the time of the 228 Incident, the Constitution had already been written but not yet implemented, as Taiwan was still in the Period of Political Tutelage.
The Organic Act of the Government of the Republic of China (國民政府組織法) states that prior to the implementation of the Constitution, the five branches of government were each the responsibility of the KMT’s CEC.
Even though the head of the nation has already offered an apology for the massacre, the KMT was in charge of the government of the day, so it should take responsibility for that government’s actions, he said.
Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深), an associate researcher at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, questioned how the 228 Memorial Hall could say the president of the time, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), had shown leniency in his handling of the incident.
He cited a March 13, 1947, telegram that Chiang sent, -warning that military and government personnel should avoid taking vengeance on the people or face “severe punishment.”
However, Chen produced correspondence between Chiang and then-executive administrator of Taiwan Chen Yi (陳儀) clarifying the sequence of events.
It suggested that Huang Chao-qin (黃朝琴), head of the Taiwan Provincial Council, had asked -Chiang on March 6 to send a senior official to Taiwan to deal with the situation, but that Chiang had already made the decision on March 5 to send the army to Taiwan to quell the unrest, Chen Yi-shen said.
Chiang only sent the telegram warning of “severe punishment” after the army had already arrived in Taiwan on March 8 and begun the massacre, he added.
Chen Yi-shen said that not one single military or political leader had ever been found guilty regarding the 228 Incident. Chiang made the commander of the Kaohsiung forces, Peng Meng-chi (彭孟緝), head of the Provincial Garrison Command.
The CEC initially relieved Chen Yi of his post, but Chiang intervened and invoked his presidential right to veto.
Viewed in this light, Chiang’s role does not sit well with the picture of magnanimity painted by the National 228 Memorial Hall, he said.
Wellington Koo (顧立雄), the lawyer of the families of the 108 victims who brought the case to the Taipei District Court on the anniversary of the massacre last year, said they were asking for an apology to be printed in Chinese-language newspapers in Taiwan and overseas publications, such as the New York Times.