TAIWAN: Museum's exhibition shows valuable documents, records of 228 Incident

International newspapers contribute to memorial on 228 Incident

Taipei Times
Monday, February 26, 2007

By Mo Yan-chih

Taipei --- In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident, the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum is holding an exhibition through April 25 on valuable historical documents and records that shed light on the tragic chapter in the nation's history.

Thousands of 228-related historical documents and records collected by the late US academic George Kerr and Sun Ya-guang, a former Investigation Bureau staffer who donated his collection to the museum in 2004, will be available for viewing.

Kerr's collection

While the documents donated by Sun include Taiwanese media coverage of the incident and official responses to the tragedy, Kerr's collection -- which ranges from personal letters and notes to English coverage of the event by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and other international newspapers -- allows viewers to understand the international community's response to the incident.

Hsieh Ying-tseng, director of Taipei 228 Memorial Museum, said that while many other organizations collected Chinese-language news coverage of the 228 Incident, his museum was the only one to have collected coverage in English-language newspapers.

Compared with coverage in Chinese-language papers, the international press provided more details on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government's attacks on civilians and the number of casualties that occurred during the incident, Hsieh said.

Valuable picture

Kerr's collection also includes a valuable picture taken near the Taipei Railway Station, which documented a street protest during the incident, he added.

Kerr was a naval attache at the US embassy in China and was serving as a staff officer and in Taipei when the incident occurred.

At the opening ceremony of the exhibition and concurrent celebration of the 10th anniversary of the museum, Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lee Yong-ping said the department would continue its efforts to educate Taiwanese about the era.

The department's goal is to transform the suffering associated with the incident into a source of strength, Lee said.

Bloody crackdown

The 228 Incident refers to the KMT's bloody crackdown on demonstrators under Chiang Kai-shek's administration in 1947 after a woman was beaten for selling black-market cigarettes in Taipei City on the night of Feb. 27.

The beating sparked nationwide disorder and the slaughter of tens of thousands of Taiwanese at the hands of KMT troops.

The department and the museum are also holding a two-day international forum today and tomorrow at Academia Sinica to discuss the incident from historical, cultural and ethnic viewpoints.

For more information, visit the museum's web site at http://228.culture.gov.tw.

KMT pledges to care for 228 victims

By Mo Yan-chih

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday promised to take responsibility for the 228 Incident and take care of victims of the violence and their family members during a memorial ceremony that the party held for a second time at the 228 Memorial Peace Park in Taipei.

The memorial ceremony marked the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident. It was one of a series of events that the KMT has arranged to work toward reconciliation with 228 victims and members of their families.

Although no longer serving as party chairman following his indictment on corruption charges, Ma Ying-jeou, who organized the party's inaugural memorial ceremony last year, was invited to the event.

He urged the party and the government to continue revealing more of the "truth" behind the incident and other unsolved cases from the White Terror era, including the murder of the family members of former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Lin Yi-hsiung and the death of academic Chen Wen-cheng.

"It's important to continue the investigation into these incidents until the whole truth is revealed. Then the public will find real peace and reconcile," Ma said.

Instead of ethnic conflict, Ma said government suppression was the main cause of the violence.

"The government, not the people, should be responsible for the 228 Incident," Ma said.

"Most of the government officials were Mainlanders, while civilians were Taiwanese, and so the idea that the [228 Incident] was an ethnic conflict is a misunderstanding," Ma said.

"We are no longer an ignored group, and we should also devote our efforts to promoting a harmonious ethnic relationship."

Ma said the most important thing was remembering the incident to prevent a similar "tragedy" from happening again.

Addressing the ceremony on behalf of some 100 victims and their family members, Taipei 228 Incident Association director Liao Ji-bin acknowledged Ma and the KMT's efforts to admit to the party's responsibility and to reconcile with the victims.

"We are no longer an ignored group, and we should also devote our efforts to promoting a harmonious ethnic relationship," he said.

Chang An-man, however, urged the KMT to put greater effort into making amends with 228 victims and family members.

He demanded the party include a 228 family member among its candidates for the next legislative election so that the demands of the victims could be better addressed.

Acting KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung promised to take care of 228 victims and family members, while party Secretary-General Wu Den-yih said the KMT would consider Chang's request.

Most top KMT officials were in attendance, but not Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.

Yang Tu, chairman of the KMT's Culture and Communications Committee, rejected the suggestion that Wang had been excluded from the event by displaying a letter of invitation dated Feb. 15 that showed the party had invited Wang and former KMT chairman Lien Chan to attend the event.

The 228 Incident refers to the KMT's bloody crackdown on demonstrators and local elites under Chiang Kai-shek's administration after a confrontation between officials and residents in Taipei on Feb. 27.

The incident culminated in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Taiwanese at the hands of KMT troops.

The KMT will hold two 228 memorial concerts today and tomorrow night in Taipei's Zhongshan Hall.

Survey suggests Chiang should take blame for 228

By Ko Shu-ling

Claims that dictator Chiang Kai-shek was personally responsible for the notorious 228 Incident will not disturb ethnic harmony, the results of a poll released yesterday indicated.

Nearly 61 percent of those polled in the Taiwan Thinktank survey conducted on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14 said it was acceptable to place the blame for the massacre on Chiang, while about 28 percent did not.

The 228 Incident was an uprising against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government sparked on Feb. 27, 1947.

Almost 48 percent of respondents also said commemorating the incident would not affect ethnic harmony, while nearly 44 percent said it would. About 47 percent of respondents said efforts to uncover the truth behind the incident were insufficient, while 36 percent disagreed.

Yao Jen-to, an assistant professor of sociology at National Tsing Hua University, said it was worth noting that a majority of respondents said ethnic tension was a serious problem.

Whereas in 1997 only 18 percent of respondents felt this way, nearly 57 percent of this year's respondents said ethnic tension was a serious problem. The figures in 2003 and 2004 were 32 percent and 56 percent respectively.

Yao said that as the distribution of social resources was quite equitable, ethnic tension in Taiwan was not as bad as in some other countries.

Hsu Yung-ming, an assistant research fellow in political science at Academia Sinica, said that ethnic tension might be the result of political infighting rather than a legacy of the 228 Incident.

Hsueh Hua-yuan, dean of the Graduate Institute of Taiwan History at National Chengchi University, agreed, saying that ethnic tension usually escalates during election periods when politicians try to arouse the passions of their constituents.

However, he said that uncovering the truth behind the 228 Incident would help to improve ethnic harmony.

Chen Chun-kai, a history professor at Fu Jen University, concurred. As most respondents did not think pointing the finger of blame at Chiang would disturb ethnic harmony, Chen said it was time to debunk the myth of Chiang. Roads or buildings named after him should be renamed and statues of the former dictator removed, Chen said.