228 Incident

From Academic Kids

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During the 228 Incident, a crowd of angry people gathered in downtown Taipei.

The 228 Incident (Template:Zh-cp) or 228 Massacre was an uprising in Taiwan that began on February 28, 1947 and was brutally repressed by the Kuomintang government, resulting in thirty-thousand civilians killed.

This event is now commemorated in Taiwan as Peace Memorial Day. Official government policy had repressed the education of the events until recently, for various reasons. Many of the details of the incident are still highly controversial and hotly debated today.

Taiwan had been handed over to the Republic of China from Japan two years earlier, and tensions between the local Taiwanese and the mainlanders China had increased in the intervening years. The flashpoint came on February 27, 1947 in Taipei when a dispute between a female cigarette vendor and an anti-smuggling officer triggered civil disorder and open rebellion that would last for days. The uprising was shortly put down by the ROC Army.



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Cover of Taiwan Literature Magazine printed during Japanese rule

As settlement for losing the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), China relinquished its claims to the entire island of Taiwan to Japan in 1895. Taiwanese perceptions of the Japanese colonial era are significantly more favorable than perceptions in other parts of East Asia, partly because during its 50 years (1895-1945) of colonial rule Japan expended effort in developing Taiwan's economy and raised the standard of living for most Taiwanese citizens. By the time of World War II many locals were proficient in Japanese but not in Chinese. Education in "Japanese spirits" furthered the discrepancy. See also, History of Taiwan

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Severe inflation due to government corruption led to the issue of currency in denominations of 1 million Taiwan Dollars.

Following the end of World War II, Taiwan was placed under the control of the Republic of China. Chen Yi, the Governor-General of Taiwan, arrived on October 24, 1945 and received the last Japanese governor, Ando Rikichi, who signed the document of surrender on the next day and proclaimed the day as retrocession day. This turned out to be legally controversial since Japan did not renounce its sovereignty over Taiwan until 1952. See also: Political status of Taiwan.

During the immediate postwar period, the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) administration on Taiwan was alleged to be repressive and corrupt, leading to local discontent. As Governor-General, Chen Yi took over and expanded the Japanese system of government industrial and trade monopoly (tobacco, sugar, camphor, tea, paper, chemicals, oil refining, cement), confiscating some 500 Japanese-owned factories and mines, and tens of thousands of private homes. The Shanghai newspaper Wen Hui Pao reported that Chen ran everything "from the hotel to the night-soil business." Economic mismanagement led to a large blackmarket, runaway inflation and food shortages. Many commodities were confiscated and shipped to mainland China where they were sold for inflated prices furthering the general shortage of goods on the island. The price of rice rose to one hundred times its original value between the time the Chinese took over to the spring of 1946. It inflated further to four hundred times the original price by January, 1947.[1] (http://www.2003hr.net/English/cul_xb0101.php) Carpetbaggers from the mainland dominated nearly all industry, political and judicial offices, displacing the Taiwanese who were formally employed; and many of the ROC garrison troops were highly undisciplined, looting, stealing, and contributing to the overall breakdown of infrastructure and public services.[2] (http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,792979,00.html)

Many members of the mainland dominated administration arrived on Taiwan fresh with memories of Japanese atrocities on the mainland during World War II, including the Rape of Nanking. Anti-Japanese sentiment caused many to view the local Taiwanese who had been brought up and educated under the Japanese system as politically untrustworthy. At the same time, many of the Taiwanese viewed mainlanders as being backwards and corrupt. These perceptions, coupled with cultural misunderstandings and governmental corruption served to further inflame tensions on both sides.

Uprising and crackdown

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An angry mob storms the Yidingmu police station in Taipei on February 28, 1947

The spark that set off the uprising occurred on February 27, 1947, when an agent of the government monopoly police attempted to confiscate black market cigarettes from an elderly Taiwanese woman. She resisted and, as accounts allege, was then pistolwhipped by the agents. An angry crowd soon gathered around the agents and the woman. After a warning shot fired by one of the agents went astray and killed an onlooker, the crowd pursued the agents to a nearby police station. The crowd surrounded the building, and demanded that the officer be given to them. The captain refused and the anger of the crowd heightened when it was discovered that the agents had been spirited out of the building via a rear entrance.

Violence finally flared the following morning on February 28. A demonstration calling for the arrest and trial of the agents involved in the previous day's shooting was fired upon by security forces at the Governor-General's Office resulting in several deaths. [3] (http://www.2003hr.net/English/cul_xb0102.php) As word of the shooting and the government's response spread via radio and telephone, uprisings began throughout the island as government buildings were attacked. By evening, martial law had been declared and curfews were enforced by soldiers in trucks firing at anyone who violated curfew.

Among the victims of the early days of the rebellion were mainlanders (both government and civilian) who were killed in reprisal by rebels. Rebels would often check to see if the individual in question could speak Taiwanese or Hakka as a means of determining their identity. Japanese was used for a final double check as well as the Japanese National Anthem. Persons who failed the above were identified as mainlanders and were often beaten or killed. However as the uprising became more organized, many volunteer police forces known as the "Loyal Service Corps" (忠義服務隊) were formed by local middle and high school students to maintain public order and protect innocent mainlanders from indiscriminate violence, notably at Kaohsuing First Senior High School (高雄一中)

For several weeks after the February 28 Incident, the rebels held control of much of the island. Though the initial uprising was spontaneous, within a few days the rebels were generally coordinated and organized, and public order in rebel-held areas was upheld by temporary police forces organized by local high school students. Local leaders soon formed a Settlement Committee which presented the government with a list of 32 Demands for reform of the provincial administration. They demanded, among other things, greater autonomy, free elections, and an end to governmental corruption. Motivations among the various rebel groups varied, some demanded greater autonomy within the ROC, while others wanted UN trusteeship or full independence. Around the same time, many were reportedly considering an appeal to the United Nations to put the island under an international mandate, since ROC's possession of Taiwan had not yet been formally recognized by any international treaties.[4] (http://228.lomaji.com/news/033047.html) The Taiwanese also demanded representation in the forthcoming peace treaty negotiations with Japan, hoping to secure a plebiscite to determine the island's political future. A smaller subgroup including those that later formed the militia known as the "27 Brigade" (二七部隊) in Taichung were motivated by communist ideology. The Settlement Committee eventually settled upon the path of requesting greater autonomy, while stopping short of independence.

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Civilian executed by the ROC Army

Feigning negotiation, the ROC authorities under Chen Yi stalled for time while assembling a large military force on the mainland in Fujian province. Upon arrival on March 8, the ROC troops launched a massive crackdown. By the end of March, Chen had jailed or killed all the leading rebels he could identify and catch. His troops reportedly executed (according to a Taiwanese delegation in Nanjing) between 3,000 and 4,000 people throughout the island. Chen Yi was later quoted by TIME magazine in April 7 1947 as saying: "It took the Japs 51 years to dominate this island. I expect to take about five years to re-educate the people so they will be more happy with Chinese administration."[5] (http://228.lomaji.com/news/040747b.html)

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A machine gun was installed on a fire engine by the Chinese Nationalist army. Dr. M. Ottsen of the United Nations took this photo at the time in Tainan.

Some of the killings were random. Other killings were premeditated. Local elites and educated Taiwanese were especially sought out. Many of the Taiwanese who had formed home rule groups during the reign of the Japanese were victims of the 228 Incident. A disproportionate number of the victims were also Taiwanese middle and high school age youths, as many of them had volunteered to serve in the temporary police forces that were organized by the Committee and the local town councils to maintain public order following the initial rebellion. Several sources have claimed that ROC troops were arresting and executing anyone wearing a student uniform.

The initial purge was followed by the "White Terror" which lasted until the end of martial law in 1987. Many thousands of Taiwanese were imprisoned or executed for their real or perceived opposition to the Kuomintang military regime, leaving many native Taiwanese with a deep-seated bitterness towards the mainlanders.

The government has set up a civilian reparations fund supported by public donations for the victims and their families. However, only a few hundred have come forward to claim the money even though the deadline has been extended several times. This may be attributed to the fact that the incident has remained taboo in Taiwan until the lifting of martial law. As a result, many descendants of Taiwanese victims are unaware that their family members were victims. Along similar lines, many of the mainland victims working in Taiwan during that time did not have family with them, as a result of this many people in the mainland were unaware that their family members were victims of this particular incident.

Points of contention

  • According to The 2-28 You Don't Know, by Li Ao (a scholar and politician), Taiwanese separatists and Japanese expats played a role in the rebellion, an observation made by several other Chinese historians of the time upon whose work Li Ao's record is based. This is contradicted by the account given by George H. Kerr who was in Taiwan at the time as a US Foreign Service officer. Kerr mentions that nearly all of the Japanese living or stationed in Taiwan at the end of WWII had been repatriated by March 1946, and the participants in the uprising were primarily Taiwanese. Unfortunately, clear census data that would give the exact numbers of Japanese remaining in Taiwan at the time is not currently at hand, making it hard to determine which writer is more accurate.
  • Kerr also mentions that the goals among the insurgents were varied and not necessarily linked to Taiwan independence. For example, the Settlement Committee issued statements demanding greater autonomy within the ROC, but stopped short of independence. Li Ao also notes the heterogenuous nature of the insurgents. He writes that the separatist subset was noteworthy for those members who used violence in the pursuit of their political goals. This is in contrast with other insurgents who did not harm mainland civilians.
  • The total number of victims is still in dispute. Some say that as many as 30,000 Taiwanese died during the backlash. Others say that the majority of those killed were innocent civilians from the mainland. The number of victims is still being researched. The government has recently declassified sensitive material that is aiding the investigation. The official estimate is somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 killed.


The 228 Monument located near the Presidential Office in Taipei
The 228 Monument located near the Presidential Office in Taipei

For several decades, the KMT-ruled authoritarian government prohibited public discussion of the 228 Massacre and many children grew up without knowing this event had ever occurred. In the 1970s the 228 Justice and Peace Movement was initiated by several citizens' groups to ask for a reversal of this policy and in 1992 the Executive Yuan promulgated the "February 28 Incident Research Report." President Lee Teng-hui, who as a young Communist participated in the incident, made a formal apology on behalf of the government in 1995 and declared February 28 a national holiday to commemorate the victims. Among other memorials erected, Taipei New Park was renamed 228 Memorial Park and the 228 Incident Memorial Foundation was established to compensate victims and their families. The families of the massacre victims have demanded the government declassify related documents in order to apprehend any living soldiers responsible for the incident, however the government has not yet acted on this request.

Prior to the 228 Incident, most Taiwanese desired autonomy from mainland China but not outright independence. The failure of dialogue with the ROC authorities in early March, combined with the feelings of betrayal felt towards the government and mainland China in general is widely believed to have been one of the major factors behind the birth of the Taiwan independence movement.

On February 28 2004, over one million Taiwanese participated in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally. They formed a 500-kilometer (300-mile) long human chain, from Taiwan's northernmost city, Keelung, to its southern tip, to commemorate the 228 Incident, to call for peace, and to protest the PRC's deployment of missiles aimed at Taiwan along the mainland coast. The event was organized by the Pan-Green Coalition.

On the other hand, many Pan-Blue Coalition supporters have accused their political opponents of inciting hatred between the Chinese mainlanders and the native Taiwanese.

This is still a highly volatile political issue in Taiwan.

See also

External links

zh:二二八事件 zh-min-nan:Jī-jī-pat sū-kiāⁿ de:Zwischenfall vom 28. Februar


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