An exhibition commemorating pro-democracy movements in Taiwan following the 228 Incident opened in the National 228 Memorial Museum yesterday, with campaigners calling for holding those responsible for the massacre to account and disclosing documents related to the Incident to achieve transitional justice.
The exhibition also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the nation’s first campaign to achieve transitional justice, launched in 1987 by late democracy pioneer Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) asking the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government to apologize for the massacre and pay compensation to victims, as well as reveal the facts about the Incident and make Feb. 28 a national holiday to commemorate the massacre.
The exhibition features a reconstruction of Deng’s office, a replica of the nation’s first monument dedicated to the Incident, banners and props used by pro-democracy activists, books banned by the former KMT regime, and poems and art inspired by the Incident.
The Incident refers to the crackdown launched by the then-KMT regime against civilian demonstrations following an incident in Taipei on Feb. 27, 1947. The event also marked the beginning of the White Terror era, which saw thousands of Taiwanese arrested, imprisoned and executed.
Deng’s wife, Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), said the KMT regime killed almost all of the Taiwanese elite during the Incident and the persecutions that followed, an atrocity that silenced Taiwanese for 40 years with people being afraid to talk about the massacre and politics.
Preceded by the “519 Green Movement” in 1986, also initiated by Deng to seek the lifting of martial law, the 228 campaign relieved Taiwanese from the fear of recounting the history of the Incident and motivated them to seek justice, she said.
Although redresses have been made to victims of the Incident, people responsible for the massacre have not been held to account and there might be victims still unnamed in the government’s list, Yeh said.
“Documents written by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) showed that he authorized the executions [of victims of the 228 Incident], but has Chiang been punished by history?” Yeh asked. “There is no transitional justice without perpetrators being punished and the truth being revealed.”
The government needs to disclose all data concerning the massacre and political persecutions to right the wrongs, she added.
While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was established in 1986, few members were involved in Deng’s campaigns, Yeh said, adding that pro-democracy movements at the time were mostly led by regular people, who had to face police violence and persecution.
“The exhibition does not commemorate my late husband, but those people,” she added.
Yeh said she is confident in President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) plan to finalize a report on the Incident in three years, although a draft transitional justice bill waits to pass the Legislative Yuan.