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What we want to mark '228'

What we want to mark '228'

Today marks the 61st anniversary of the "February 28th Massacre of 1947," commonly known in Taiwan as "228," which refers to the island-wide uprising against the corrupt administration of Kuomintang governor-general Chen Yi and the bloody suppression of the citizen rebellion by troops sent by KMT autocrat Chiang Kai-shek at a cost of over 10,000 lives and decades of division in Taiwan society.
Last year's 60th anniversary of the February 28th Massacre signified the completion of a 60-year cycle in the Sinitic calender and this Year of the Rat can be seen as a year for new beginnings.
Taiwan will indeed experience a new transition on May 20 with the inauguration of the new president who will be elected by our 23 million citizens on March 22, but whether that change will mark a step forward into a more positive, tolerant and progressive future for an autonomous and democratic Taiwan or a step backward toward a possible return of China-centric authoritarianism remains to be seen.
We therefore believe that the "February 28th Memorial Foundation" made a perceptive choice when they decided to set the theme of this year's official commemoration in Taipei's 228 Memorial Park as "Taiwan Stands Up."
The foundation urges the Taiwan people to allow their "historical conscience stand up" and overcome the ethnic, cultural and social complexes left from the February 28th Massacre and five decades of authoritarian rule and to continue the "228 Spirit" of "protecting Taiwan" by "standing up and defending our hard-won democracy and freedom."
We believe that both presidential candidates and parties can take a concrete step during the current campaign to demonstrate in deed as well as words their commitment to helping "Taiwan stand up" and transcending the complexes left from "228" and five decades of authoritarianism through a process of "truth and reconciliation."
Open the files
First, we urge Kuomintang presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou to support the proposal of Democratic Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh and join in a joint pledge to fully open all political intelligence files collected by intelligence and security organizations, such as the National Security Bureau, the Taiwan Garrison Command (now held by the Ministry of defense) and the Investigation Bureau (now under the Ministry of Justice).
The DPP administration under President Chen Shui-bian has achieved considerable progress in the field of unearthing files and revealing the truth of many historical incidents of the martial law period, such as the "228" Incident itself, the supposedly "anti-communist" period of "white terror," the imprisonment of Free China Weekly editor-in-chief Lei Chen and the suppression of the attempt to form a "China Democratic Party," the suppression of the "Formosa" democratic movement in December 1979 and numerous other cases.
However, many critical files remain beyond the reach of the DPP administration due to the lack of legal foundations for investigation into martial law cases or the lack of cooperation by the KMT itself.
Indeed, since the authoritarian period featured a fusion of party and state, Ma and the KMT should also pledge to open its party achieves and release its political intelligence and surveillance files.
Second, we urge the two candidates and their parties to both pledge to establish an independent and impartial "truth and reconciliation commission" that would be legally mandated to review cases of political persecution and unjust verdicts under the martial law period and reopen probes into unsolved political cases, especially the February 28, 1980 murders of two daughters and the mother of then "Formosa" sedition trial defendant and later DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung and the July 2, 1981 death of Carnegie Mellon professor Chen Wen-cheng after interrogation by TGC agents.
Given the KMT's now virtually complete control over the Legislative Yuan, Ma and KMT leaders should have little reason to fear that such a commission would be used to "eliminate" the KMT.
Moreover, we believe Ma the leaders of his party can also demonstrate their appreciation for the essence of the "228 Spirit" by allowing Taiwan to "stand up" internationally by openly declaring that the KMT will not call on its supporters to boycott either of the referenda on the March 22 ballot, including the DPP-supported initiative that would mandate the government to apply for admission into the United Nations under the name of "Taiwan" or its own initiated referendum on applying for "readmission" into the UN under the name of the Republic of China.
The KMT can legitimately suggest to its supporters how to vote, but we urge the former authoritarian party to respect the genuine core value of the February 28th uprising and the ROC's own constitution, namely the principle of "sovereignty rests with the people" and encourage citizen participation in the democratic process.
A commitment by Ma and his party to the process of "truth and reconciliation" and to uphold the right of the Taiwan people to use direct democracy to make their own decisions on matters of national importance would be their best way of showing that they have truly learned the lesson of "228" and have no intention of returning to their past authoritarian ways.


Updated : 2021-02-28 03:37 GMT+08:00