Civil and student groups march in Taipei ahead of 228 Incident anniversary

Event marked the incident but also emphasized importance of human rights and transitional justice now

Activists march in Taipei to commemorate the 228 Incident on Feb. 22.

Activists march in Taipei to commemorate the 228 Incident on Feb. 22. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — More than 40 civil and student groups marched on the streets of Taipei Saturday afternoon (Feb. 22) in commemoration of the 228 Incident – the island-wide suppression of civilians who protested against the Kuomintang (KMT) government that eventually led to tens of thousands of deaths — seven decades ago.

Marching before the 73rd anniversary of the 228 Incident, organizers said the event was intended to encourage the public to remain aware of the tragedy and its impact on society. It was also a timely reminder to the government to persist in the work of transitional justice.

The organizers called on the government to put more emphasis on human rights issues. Laws and regulations related to human rights, including the Refugee Act, should be legislated for or reformed, said the organizers.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Professor Chen Wen-Chen’s Memorial Foundation has organized the march, in partnership with other groups, with the theme this year being “Refuse to forget, insist on resisting.” A number of lawmakers also took part in the event.

The 228 Incident refers to the mass suppression of civilians by the KMT authorities across the island starting Feb. 28, 1947, the day after an official picked on a vendor of smuggled cigarettes and opened fire on civilians, resulting in one fatality. The incident took place shortly after the end of the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945), and before the KMT leadership came to Taiwan, after losing the civil war against the Communist Party,

It was estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 people were killed in the following months, including intellectuals and professionals who had long been dissatisfied with the corrupt KMT officials. They were also critical of the weak economy and unstable society that emerged after the island nation came under KMT rule.

Participants of the march on Saturday set out from the intersection of Taiyuan Road and Nanjing West Road, and marched by the Tianma Tea House, where the cigarette vendor incident occurred. The procession ended at the Executive Yuan building.

Some participants held banners, while others read out the names of the victims and explained the incident using a loudspeaker along the way.

The event ended with communal singing and prayers led by Kao Ing-chieh (高英傑), the son of the indigenous victim during the White Terror era, Gao Yisheng (高一生). The White Terror refers to the large-scale suppression of political dissidents by the KMT in the martial law era from 1949 to 1987, including surveillance, detention, torture, and murder.