Document unearthed shows double-dealing of Chiang behind 228 Incident

A key document from the 228 Incident. (Photo from Academia Historica).

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - As the 70th anniversary of the 228 Incident approaches, Taiwan’s Academia Historica has revealed a newly unearthed document of a telegraph dated March 2, 1947, that shows the double-dealing tactics made by Chiang Kai-shek's appointed official in an attempt to buy time for rearmament by making false promise, which resulted in a more deadly repression against Taiwanese intellectual elites and dissidents, and endless suffering of their families and descendants.

Between 18,000 and 28,000 people are estimated to have died in the uprising and following repression. The 228 Incident became a taboo subject until then-President Lee Teng-hui  (李登輝) launched the beginnings of a process of redressing and apology which is still continuing to this day.

As Taiwan is to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1947 massacre, the Academia Historica revealed a document Thursday showing that a request was made through a telegraph by Chen Yi (陳儀) to dispatch troops from China to quell a native Taiwanese uprising on the island. Chen was the Chief Executive of Taiwan Province after the island was transferred by Japan to the Republic of China following WWII.

The unrest was partly fueled by inflation due to the mishandling of commodities under the dictatorial rule by the Kuomintang government of the time. Then-KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) approved Chen's request to send troops. Scholars said Chiang was responsible for the tragedy. 

Academia Historica President Wu Mi-cha (吳密察) said that the staff compiled 18 books featuring the 228 Incident during President Chen Shui-bian’s rule, and the project resumed after the Democratic Progressive Party won back the presidency last year, and this time, with the help of the Taichung City Government and the Presidential Office, the institution published six more books to give a complete detailed history.   

National Taiwan University Professor Chen Tsui-lien (陳翠蓮) said that the historians had been looking for the critical document of a telegraph issued by Chen Yi but to no avail, and the discovery has proved the assumption that Chen on the one hand tried to buy time by promising reform and appealing to the native Taiwanese not to take to the streets, but on the other hand pushed Chiang to send troops across the sea to end the uprising.

Professor Chen Tsui-lien cited the report and said that Chen ostensibly agreed to set up a commission on March 1, 1947, to handle the dispute between Taiwanese civilians and KMT soldiers from China, but after his requested troops arrived, the massacre began, and the dissidents and many others died.

“Other newly unearthed documents also found evidence that prove the ruling KMT of the time utilized a comprehensive surveillance system to create fear among the people on the island,” Professor Chen said.

Seventy years later, some people in Taiwan still harbor resentment and distrust towards the KMT over the 228 Incident. Movies, books, and songs have been made to commemorate the event.