Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday acknowledged Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) responsibility in the 228 Incident and the ensuing White Terror era, but said it requires deliberative rather than hasty judgement “to determine what that responsibility was.”
Ma made the remarks after completing a series of activities in Taipei to commemorate in advance the 70th anniversary of the 228 Incident, which began with him paying a tribute to a monument in the 228 Peace Memorial Park before visiting the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum and the National 228 Memorial Museum.
He was responding to reporters’ questions about the Ministry of Culture’s plans to draft a bill to reinvent the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei and pull merchandise from stores in the hall that feature Chiang’s likeness.
To have a correct understanding of Chiang, one must look at both his mistakes and accomplishments, Ma said, adding that Chiang is an important figure in modern Chinese history who had made considerable contributions to recovering, defending and building Taiwan.
“Nevertheless, as the head of state at the time, Chiang was undoubtedly liable for the 228 Incident and the White Terror era. As for exactly what kind of responsibility he had, I am afraid that is a matter for future generations to deliberate to reach a more accurate conclusion,” Ma said.
“Jumping to hasty conclusions would only create unnecessary conflicts,” he added.
The 228 Incident refers to a crackdown launched by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime against civilian demonstrations following an incident in Taipei on Feb. 27, 1947.
The ensuing massacre and imposition of martial law marked the beginning of the decades-long White Terror era, during which thousands of Taiwanese were arrested, imprisoned and executed. Historians estimate as many as 30,000 people were killed.
Turning to the KMT’s past efforts to heal the wounds of the 228 Incident, Ma said it has done almost anything possible, including acknowledgment of mistakes, apologies, compensation, erection of commemorative monuments, designation of Feb. 28 as a national holiday and recovery of the truth.
“That being said, we should keep pursuing new threads and information if there are still any. This should be the attitude adopted by both the pan-blue and pan-green camps,” Ma said.
Dismissing some people’s belief that the 228 Incident was an ethnic conflict, the former president said that it was a confrontation between the government and its people triggered by the confiscation of contraband cigarettes.
“Evidence shows that in the aftermath of the incident, many Mainlanders were actually sheltered by Taiwanese,” Ma said.
As then-Taiwan governor-general Chen Yi (陳儀) was the one harshly criticized in China at the time, it suggests that “the 228 Incident was not an ethnic conflict back then and it should not be one now,” Ma said.
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