Local leaders and civic organizations in Chiayi City are to hold a commemorative event today to remember victims of mass killings by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) army in 1947.
A march titled “Remember 228, do not forget the massacre of March 1947,” is set to start at Chiayi City Railway Station at 2pm.
The 228 Incident refers to a crackdown launched by the then-KMT regime against civilian demonstrations in 1947, following an incident in Taipei on Feb. 27.
The event also marked the beginning of the White Terror era that saw thousands of Taiwanese arrested, imprisoned and executed.
Although the nation is now a democracy, the process of transitional justice has not been completed, Chiayi City councilor Tsai Wen-hsu (蔡文旭) of the Democratic Progressive Party said.
“We hope people can be reminded of these painful lessons from history by participating in the march,” he said.
Chiayi’s Taoshan Humanity and Arts Institute director Lin Jui-hsia (林瑞霞) said many innocent leaders and intellectuals from Chiayi were rounded up and executed in the wake of the 228 Incident.
“Take Chiayi City for example, we had people such as Chen Cheng-po (陳澄波), Pan Mu-chih (潘木枝) and Lu Ping-chin (盧炳欽). These men were representatives sent to negotiate with the army for peace, but were summarily executed in public in front of the Chiayi Railway Station,” Lin said.
According to Lin, historical files show that three rounds of public executions were carried out in March 1947 in Chiayi City. Soldiers of the KMT army executed 16 people, none of whom had stood trial, and after they were shot, their corpses were left to rot in the heat as the soldiers forbade their families from recovering the bodies for burial, Lin said.
“It was very cruel and inhumane,” she added.
Chiayi resident Yang Ching-shan (楊青山), a 79-year-old retired teacher, was a witness to the events of 1947 and recalled the executions.
“That year I was 14, and a student at Chiayi City Junior High School. I remember seeing Lu Yi (盧鎰) and several other people being tied up with hemp ropes near the railway station. The KMT soldiers ordered Lu Yi to kneel down, but he refused,” Yang said.
“Lu was shot three times and died on the spot. Before the execution, he and other victims were led through the streets by soldiers,” Yang said.
As well as holding the march, event organizers have also lodged a petition with the Chiayi City Government, demanding that it change the name of the city’s Jhongjheng Park, as the name pays tribute to Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), who a number of academics argue was the main culprit behind massacre.
The groups also demanded the removal of Chiang’s bronze statue from the park.
“The main main culprit for the 228 Massacre was Chiang Kai-shek. Yet Chiayi City still has a park named after him, with a statue of Chiang there,” said Chen Ying-hua (陳英華), chief director of the march. “It stands right opposite the Chen Cheng-po Cultural Center. This is just absurd.”
Chen Cheng-po, one of the nation’s best known pre-WWII artists, was a victim of the 228 Incident and was executed by KMT soldiers.
“We have many 228 Incident victims, but still we do not have clarity on the perpetrators of these crimes. Some aspects of the massacre have not been clarified and some historical files and other documents are locked away and unavailable for public access,” Chen Ying-hua added,
In response, Chen Kuang-hsing (陳光興), head of Chiayi City Government’s Construction Department, said Chiayi City is the “sacred place of [Taiwanese] democracy” and that city officials respected opinions from all sides.