TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As the anniversary of the 228 massacre approaches, overseas Taiwanese communities are coming together to commemorate the lives lost and lessons learned from Taiwan’s period of White Terror.
Thousands were killed by the government after anti-establishment protests erupted on Feb. 28 1947, and the Taiwanese community in New York took part in a commemorative event for the incident Sunday, which featured speeches from prominent academics and musical performances.
CNA reports hundreds of overseas Taiwanese attended the annual 228 Peace Memorial Day event presented by the Taiwan Center of New York. A series of lectures and performances were given on a stage erected in the city’s Flushing district before a white backdrop, on which the phrase “Never forget 1947.2.28” (從未記得何以忘記 1947.2.28) was written.
Hsiao Chung-cheng (蕭忠正), chairperson of the Taiwanese American Association of New York (TAANY), who co-hosted the event, said its purpose was not to rekindle hatred or incite hostility towards any faction of the current government, but to remember, and hope for more peace in the future.
Ambassador at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Lily Hsu (徐儷文) said the Taiwanese government is still working hard to help society collectively move forward from this dark part of Taiwan’s history. Though the path may be long, she added, the process is unquestionably valuable in deepening Taiwan’s democracy and continuing to safeguard the values of freedom and human rights.
National Taiwan University Sociology professor He Ming-xue (何明修) also gave a speech entitled “From sadness to symbiosis: The significance of 228 Peace Memorial Day.”
He said the three most important tasks in Taiwan’s pursuit of transitional justice—the reconstruction of the historical memory, the compensation of victims, and the punishment of perpetrators—are yet to be completed. Taiwan’s journey to where it is today has, however, not been easy, said He, so whether the truth will bring reconciliation or just further resentment must be considered.
History academic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wang Yu-li (王宇莉) gave a short speech entitled “Taiwan’s one unfulfilled quest,” in which she explored the significance and boundaries of the Taiwanese identity throughout generations in light of the 228 incident.
Wang said that in terms of oral history, a long period of silence on the massacre ensued in the U.S. following Taiwan’s ardent strides towards democracy throughout the 1980s. In the past 10 years however, the second and third generations of Taiwanese Americans have begun to re-explore it through a diverse range of mediums including story and song.
In addition to speeches, Taiwanese composer Mitch Lin (林明學) and the TAANY choir were invited to perform a number of compositions that demonstrated the community’s love for the grand progress Taiwan has made since the end of the reign of White Terror.