Taiwan: Commemoration of the 60th anniversary of 2-28 Massacre in Taiwan

On February 27, 1947, after Chinese army came to Taiwan, under Chiang Kai-Shek’s KuoMinTang (KMT) regime, a tragic incident happened, people were killed by the government officials. The next day, on 2/28, in Taipei, when a group of unarmed demostrators gathered and asked for justice, they were killed or wounded under the command of the governor. Afterwards, hundreds and thousands of innocent civilians were killed or wounded by the army force. Among them, many were important local elites who had been working relentlessly on resolving the conflict between the government and angry civilians. This incident was the start of tyranny that oppressed Taiwanese for more than 40 years. (For details about the following massacre in ChiaYi, check out judie35's blog (zh).)

In 1987 (the martial law finally ended in the same year), to commemorate the death of the people who pursuited peace on 2/28/1947 and thereafter, February 28th is first named Peace Memorial Day. Judie35 (zh) said, ‘I agree with Yi-Hsiung Lin‘s opinion that we should not only focus on the governors from China or the conflict between Taiwanese and Chinese at that time. We should find the root of the massacre: the dictatorship killed the people who wanted justice to assure its ruling. We should learn how to avoid dictatorship from the heartrending history.’

In 2004, safeguard Taiwan alliance proposed ‘ all Taiwanese should hold hand-in-hand to protect Taiwan on 2/28.’ On that day, two million people gathered and lined up for as long as 500km. The peace march was so successful that even people in China were eager to comment.

In a forum in China, static stone said, ‘Taiwanese are fooled by Chen, Shui-Ben. They asked for peace, but they do not know that we enforce the military force toward Taiwan because Chen's government is pro-independence. If they want peace, they should ask Chen to step down.’ On the other hand, a Taiwanese student, Yuan-Shen Chiang wrote in his blog, ‘I do not care if the event is related to the presidential election going to happen later or not. I am happy I joined the event because I believe it is meaningful. We took action to show our love for the place we live.’

This year, the 60th anniversary of the massacre, a group of local artists commemorated 2/28 Peace Memorial Day with music and film. The theme is “ With Justice We Cure This Nation.” Renowned international rock bands, including Plastic People of the Universe, Strike Anywhere, Muse, Akiakane, and Pan Gu, and local rock bands Chthonic, Tizzy Bac, and Loh Tsui Kweh Commune, were performing live on February 28. Sound and fury was excited about the performance of Plastic People of the Universe and said, ‘They sing for rock, justice, democracy, and human dignity. Yes, they will show up in Taipei, and perform in a concert that criticizes dictatorship. Isn't the event suitable for their performance?’

Outside of Taiwan, in the USA, there is also a commemoration march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C for five days (2/24-2/28).

On internet, Taiwanese bloggers held ‘ the 228 Show Taiwan Writing Marathon‘ for the first time last year. It drew the attention from major Taiwanese media. Because of the great success, Taiwan blogophere held this event again this year.

Behind the scene, not to our surprise, some people were not interested in the commemoration. Huei-Hsien Peng wrote, ‘All of us are still living under the shadow of 2-28. The first generation of the victims complaint about their bitterness. The second and the third generation continue complainting. So, how much is enough? To what extent would they be satisfied?’ She also pointed out, ‘led by the current ruling party ( Progressive Party, DPP), the mind set behind the commemoration is so narrow that they focus on a specific group of people and a specific political party (KMT).’ On the other hand, Fang-Chai Yeh Hua explained why we still need to talk about 228 massacre, ‘the hope to raise the awareness of the transitional justice.’ Sound and fury said, ‘Samuel P. Hungtington, the author of The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, brought up a major problem for most developing countries—when a new democratic government face the killings made by the past dictatorship, what should we do? Ask for justice and punishment, or forgive and forget?’

The people suffering from 2-28 Massacre in 1947 and the oppression thereafter are more than 80 year-old now. Many victims ask for justice and the truth to be revealed. Furthermore, Tofu fish wrote in her blog: we should try to adapt literature and art to let more people in this island understand and discuss what happened in the past. Through grass-roots efforts, someday there will be no need for indictment, and we can live in peace.’

If you like music, you can check out the music performed in the Peace Memorial Day concert: ‘Taiwan the Green,’ a poem written by John Jyigiokk, adapted by Tyzen Hsiao in his ‘1947 Overture’, Je-Lin Hsieh singing ‘Taiwan Lily’, music by Anjamama and lyric by Kufao, and Hui-Ju Chen singing ‘The Spiritual Day of Taiwan’, music by Lynn Huang and lyric by Tu-Pan F. G.

If you like drawings, you can check out the print ‘ horrid exam–2-28 incident in Taiwan‘ by Jung-Tsan Huang (in the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama), ‘Massacre in Keelung harbor on 3/8/1947′ by Bing-Shyi Shih, and an oil painting by Wen Ouyang, who is also a survivor of 2-28 Massacre.

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