What you need to know
The February 28 Incident (228) in 1947 was a turning point for the development of democracy in Taiwan. Back then, the government violently suppressed a conflict between the people and the police, leading to tens of thousands of deaths. With the 69th anniversary of the tragedy coming up this Sunday, some have brought up that Chiang Kai-shek, often recognized as the “founding father” of the Republic of China (ROC), was most responsible for the incident.
Translated and compiled by Shin-wei Chang
In memory of the 69th anniversary of the 228 Incident, the Taiwan National Alliance held a press conference on February 24. It asked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the newly elected ruling party, to admit that Chiang Kai-shek should be responsible for the incident. In addition, the alliance assumed that the decisions to violently suppress the people made by the Chiang family were closely related to the incident. As a result, their journals and relevant files should not be regarded as family assets or assets of the Kuomintang (KMT). The alliance says the documents should be considered as presidential artifacts.
On February 25, Tsai Ting-kuei, chairperson of the Free Taiwan Party, went to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall with 20 other members. They splashed Chiang’s statue with red paint and even hung a sign on its neck with the word “murderer” written on it. They also wrote six names of the victims of the 228 Incident with red paint around the statue.
According to the Free Taiwan Party, “It is the ones who died and fight for Taiwan’s independence and freedom of speech that are memorable, instead of the dictator of an exiled government.” After the paint was splashed on the statue, the members were arrested, and the paint was soon removed.
The Taiwan National Alliance also called for a “reasonable change” to the existence of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. In addition, there should be explanations about Chiang’s responsibility in the incident in textbooks. Chen Yi-shen, associate research fellow in the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, also points out that there is nothing about the truth or the responsibility for the 228 Incident in current textbooks.
A worshipped murderer?
In “Jeng Chin Talk,” a political talk show produced by Next TV, the host quotes Encyclopedia of Genocide by R.J. Rummel, listing the top nine killers in 20th Century. Surprisingly, Chiang Kai-shek ranks number four, killing ten million people from 1928 to 1949.
On February 25, the Free Taiwan Party released a statement on Facebook, pointing out that, “Chiang, a dictator killing numerous people, is still worshipped at the heart of the capital.” They claim that this was the first step they would take in 2016 to achieve transitional justice, and they would fight until the exiled government system is brought down.
In response to the demonstration, the presidential spokesperson Chen Yi I-hsin “severely denounces” the people who splashed paint on the statue. He says freedom of speech should not break the law using the excuse of demanding transitional justice. He emphasizes, the government discourage the act of intensifying the confrontation among people.
In addition to the one in Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, there are numerous Chiang statues in schools, parks and squares all over the island, including National Chengchi University, Taipei First Girls High School. Last year, similar events also occurred in 25 of these places, where the statues were vandalized. Some of them had cards reading “Don’t forget 228” hung around the statues.
Edited by Olivia Yang