A number of academics yesterday rebutted recent comments by former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), who questioned the number of people killed in the 228 Incident in 1947 tragedy.
In a forum hosted by the Taiwan Association of University Professors, association president Chang Yen-hsien (張炎憲) said Hau’s suggestion that only about 500 people were killed was not based on historical facts.
The historian was referring to an op-ed piece published in the Chinese-language United Daily News on Tuesday in which Hau challenged the content of a history textbook which stated that more than 10,000 people were killed during the 228 Incident and said that in his view, about 500 people were killed during the crackdown.
The 228 Incident refers to the crackdown launched by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime against civilian demonstrations in 1947, following an incident in Taipei on Feb. 27 of that year.
That tragic event also marked the beginning of the White Terror era that saw thousands of locals arrested, imprisoned and executed.
Although President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said on Friday that “the focus is not on the number of the people that were killed ... The government mishandled the incident and of course it is responsible for the consequences,” Chang said that according to US cables leaked by WikiLeaks, Ma told US officials that he believed about 900 people were killed in the 228 Incident.
“Ma and his government only offer apologies once a year when it is time to hold the 228 Incident memorial ceremony, but his apologies are superficial,” Chang said.
Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深), an associate researcher at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, said the number of people who died during the 228 Incident could not be precisely calculated, but could be estimated on the basis of historical research. Most historical records showed more than 10,000 were killed in the massacre, with some academics claiming about 18,000 victims, Chen said.
“Hau thinks the 228 Incident is trivial and should not be -highlighted because he sees Taiwan as a part of China, and in Chinese modern history, a civil war or riot can easily claim the lives of 100,000 or 300,000 people, so [in comparison he views] the deaths of 10,000 victims as trivial,” Chang said.
“Denying the number who died comes from a fear to honestly examine history,” said Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Culture at National Taipei University of Education.
Additional reporting by CNA