Okinawan victims show 228 was international crime

Amidst the commemorative and peace activities for the thousands of victims of the 60th anniversary of the February 28th Massacre of 1947, Taiwan society was offered a reminder that the scope of suffering in 228 was not limited to "native Taiwanese" or "mainlanders," but also extended to citizens of other lands, notably Okinawa.
This week, a delegation of 10 Okinawans, including several who lost fathers or brothers in the bloody suppression of the 228 movement by military forces of the Kuomintang regime, have visited Taiwan to let the people of Taiwan know of their own tragic and involuntary participation in this greatest tragedy of Taiwan's modern history and to gain understanding themselves of what happened to their loved ones and why.
Due to the long decades of the martial law restrictions on freedom of expression during which even mention of the 228 Incident was a taboo, many aspects of the truth of the affair have yet to be revealed.
Search for the truth
To the relatives of the victims, what is most important is to find the truth of what happened to their loved ones and why they died so that the binds on their spirit can at last be released.
The 228 massacre and its consequences are undoubtedly the fundamental factors of the history of postwar Taiwan.
Moreover, precisely because of the close historical relations between Taiwan and Okinawa, the 228 Incident not only created a massive tragedy in Taiwan, but has also left deep wounds in Okinawa as well.
At that time, traders and fisherman came from Okinawa to Taiwan unaware of the chaos that the February 28th uprising against the then KMT governor general Chen Yi had caused. As a result, many became embroiled in the 228 massacre and lost their lives when KMT troops, dispatched by Republic of China president and autocrat Chiang Kai-shek to suppress the "rebellion," arrived.
At that time, approximately 300 Okinawans lived in a fishing community on Keelung's Sheliao Island (now known as Peace Island).
After the end of the Second World War and the substantive take over of Taiwan after five decades of Japanese rule by the KMT regime under the cover of occupation, this community of Okinawans, as with many Japanese professionals or essential workers, had been "retained for utilization" in Taiwan after the repatriation of most Japanese.
No distinction made
When KMT troops, from of the First Battalion of the 21st Military Police Regiment dispatched by Chiang from China arrived in Keelung harbor, they did not distinguish between persons from Okinawa with Japanese citizenship or Taiwanese and thus Sheliao Island became one of the first settlements to witness the following islandwide massacre and "purification" and at least 30 Okinawans became victims along with thousands of Taiwanese.
After the 228 massacre and the "purification" of dissidents that followed, the flight of the KMT regime to Taiwan after losing the Chinese Civil War to the Chinese Communist Party's People's Liberation Army led to a deeper and more systematic "White Terror" marked by the (probably illegal) declaration of martial law on May 19, 1949 that lasted for over 38 years until July 15, 1987.
During these four decades of what one international human rights group called a "tortured silence," the story of the 228 victims from Okinawa and their right to know the fate of their loved ones and the truth behind their disappearance was buried along with any hopes for transitional justice.
Indeed, besides the pain of their loss and the difficulties of making ends meet with the disappearance of husbands and brothers, the survivors and their relatives have long had an unrelenting regret and sadness.
In addition, due to the proximity between Taiwan and Okinawa, many Taiwanese fled to the nearby islands of Yonaguni and Ishigakijima and other islands of the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa to escape arrest or execution in the bloodbath and were unable to return home and were forced to change their names and live and even die in a foreign land, often as stateless persons.
Proof of international crime
From this previously unrevealed story we can see that the 228 Incident was truly an international crime of KMT state violence that transcended the box of ethnic conflict between "mainlanders" and "Taiwanese," which some pundits have constructed to water down the gravity of the KMT regime's brutal actions and the nature of 228 as a state crime against humanity.
After six decades, survivors and relatives of Okinawan and Taiwanese 228 victims, including a 100-year old witness to the murder of at least eight Taiwanese shipmates, have come to Taiwan to tell their story, along with documentary evidence.
We welcome and applaud their resolve in making this landmark visit and initiative for their own transitional justice.
Their visit, organized by human rights workers and researchers from both Taiwan and Okinawa, not only constitutes a testament to their courage but also demonstrates that Taiwan's own concern for human rights and humanitarianism has crossed international frontiers and that Taiwan is gradually putting aside the limitations and divisions of national origin in favor of a joint realization of our common humanity.
We also urge the Democratic Progressive Party government and lawmakers of all parties to work together to ensure that these 228 survivors and victims from Okinawa can also secure just and proper reparations and find solace in the discovery of the truth.