The 228 Incident, also known as the 228 Massacre, was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that began on February 27, 1947, and was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang (KMT) government. Estimates of the number of deaths vary from 10,000 to 30,000 or more. The Incident marked the beginning of the Kuomintang's White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more Taiwanese vanished, died, or were imprisoned. The number "228" refers to the day the massacre began: February 28, or 02-28.
In 1945, 50 years of Japanese rule ended, and in October the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) handed administrative control of Taiwan as a province to the Kuomintang-administered Republic of China (ROC). But one year (16 months) of KMT administration led to the widespread impression that the party was plagued by nepotism, corruption, and economic failure. Tensions increased between Taiwanese and the ROC administration. The flashpoint came on February 27 in Taipei, when a dispute between a cigarette vendor and an officer of the Office of Monopoly triggered civil disorder and open rebellion that lasted for days. The uprising was violently put down by the military of the Republic of China.
The subject was officially taboo for decades. On the anniversary of the event in 1995, President Lee Teng-hui addressed the subject publicly, a first for a Taiwanese head of state. The event is now openly discussed and commemorated as Peace Memorial Day (Template:Zh), and details of the event have become the subject of investigation. Every February 28, the president of the ROC gathers with other officials to ring a commemorative bell in memory of the victims. The president bows to family members of 2-28 victims and gives each one a certificate officially declaring the family innocent of any crime. Monuments and memorial parks to the victims of 2-28 have been erected in a number of Taiwanese cities, including Kaohsiung and Taipei.
As settlement for losing the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), the Qing Empire relinquished in perpetuity its claims to Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in 1895. Armed resistance against the Japanese administrators had been largely put down by the 1920s. Subsequently, Taiwanese perceptions of the Japanese rule are significantly more favorable than perceptions in other parts of East Asia, partly because during its 50 years of colonial rule (1895–1945), Japan developed Taiwan's economy and raised the standard of living for most Taiwanese people, building up Taiwan as a supply base for the Japanese main islands. Later, Taiwanese adopted Japanese names and practiced Shinto, while the schools instilled a sense of "Japanese spirit" in students. By the time of World War II began, many Taiwanese were proficient in both the Taiwanese, a derivative of the Hokkien language which originated in Fujian province in China, and Japanese languages, while still keeping their unique identity.
Following the end of World War II, Taiwan was placed under the administrative control of the Republic of China to provide stability until a permanent arrangement could be made. Chen Yi, the Governor-General of Taiwan, arrived on October 24, 1945, and received the last Japanese governor, Ando Rikichi, who signed the document of surrender on the next day and proclaimed the day as Retrocession Day. This takeover also turned out to be legally controversial since Japan did not renounce its sovereignty over Taiwan until the Treaty of San Francisco in 1952, which complicated the political status of Taiwan. Although Japan renounced their sovereignty over Taiwan, Sakhalin, Kurile and many other islands in the Treaty, it does not formally state which nations are sovereign over related territories, an issue that some supporters of Taiwan independence use to justify Taiwanese self-determination according to Article 77 of the Charter of the United Nations, which applies trusteeships to "territories which may be detached from enemy states as a result of the Second World War".
Although the Kuomintang (KMT) liberation troops were initially welcomed by local Taiwanese, the KMT administration led to Taiwanese discontent during the immediate postwar period due to large scale economic unrest produced by the Chinese Civil War. As Governor-General, Chen Yi took over and expanded the Japanese system of state monopolies in tobacco, sugar, camphor, tea, paper, chemicals, petroleum refining, and cement. He confiscated some 500 Japanese-owned factories and mines, and tens of thousands of private homes. The Shanghai newspaper Wen Hui Pao reported that Chen ran everything "from the hotel to the night-soil business." Economic mismanagement led to a large black market, runaway inflation and food shortages. Many commodities were confiscated and shipped to China where they were sold for inflated prices furthering the general shortage of goods in Taiwan. The price of rice rose to one hundred times its original value between the time the Chinese took over to the spring of 1946. It inflated further to four hundred times the original price by January, 1947. Carpetbaggers from China dominated nearly all industry, political and judicial offices, displacing the Taiwanese who were formerly employed; and many of the ROC garrison troops were highly undisciplined, looting, stealing, and contributing to the overall breakdown of infrastructure and public services.
Before, the Taiwanese had welcomed the people from China. Now, they were extremely disappointed and angered by the wrongdoings and racist activities of the government. Because the Taiwanese elite had met with some success with self government under Japanese rule, they had expected the same treatment from the incoming Chinese government. However, the Chinese Nationalists opted for a different route, aiming for the centralization of government powers and a reduction in local authority. The KMT's nation-building efforts went this way because of unpleasant experiences with the centrifugal forces during the Warlord Era that had torn the government in China. The different goals of the Chinese Nationalists and the Taiwanese, coupled with cultural misunderstandings, racial hostility, and governmental corruption served to further inflame tensions on both sides.
Uprising and crackdown
On the evening of February 27, 1947, Chinese agents from the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau in Taipei went to a neighborhood on present-day Nanjing West Road, where they confiscated contraband cigarettes from a 40 year old widow named Lin Jiang-mai at the Tianma teahouse (天馬茶房)(Template:Coord/display/inline). The Chinese agents took away her life savings along with the smuggled cigarettes. She begged for her life savings, but one of the agents cracked Lin's skull with a pistol, prompting the surrounding Taiwanese crowd to chase the Chinese agents. As the agents ran away, they fired their guns into the crowd, killing one bystander named Chen Wen-xi. The mood of the crowd, which had already been harboring many feelings of frustration from KMT rule, reached breaking point. The crowd protested to both the police and the gendarmes, but received no response.
Violence flared the following morning on February 28. Security forces at the Governor-General's Office, using machine guns, fired on the unarmed demonstrators calling for the arrest and trial of the agents involved in the previous day's shooting, resulting in several deaths. Formosans took over the administration of the town and military bases on March 4 and used the local radio station to caution against violence. By evening, martial law had been declared and curfews were enforced by soldiers in trucks firing at anyone who violated curfew.
According to the New York Times on March 29, 1947: "An American who had just arrived in China from Taihoku said that troops from China arrived there on March 7 and indulged in three days of indiscriminate killing and looting. For a time everyone seen on the streets was shot at, homes were broken into and occupants killed. In the poorer sections the streets were said to have been littered with dead. 'There were instances of beheadings and mutilation of bodies, and women were raped,' the American reported."
For several weeks after the February 28 Incident, the Taiwanese held control of much of Taiwan. Though the initial uprising was spontaneous and peaceful, within a few days the Taiwanese were generally coordinated and organized, and public order in Taiwanese-held areas was upheld by temporary police forces organized by local high school students. Local leaders soon formed a Settlement Committee, which presented the government with a list of 32 Demands for reform of the provincial administration. They demanded, among other things, greater autonomy, free elections, surrender of ROC Army to the Settlement Committee, and an end to governmental corruption. Motivations among the various Formosans groups varied; some demanded greater autonomy within the ROC, while others wanted UN trusteeship or full independence. Around the same time, many were reportedly considering an appeal to the United Nations to put the island under an international mandate, since ROC's possession of Taiwan had not yet been formally recognized by any international treaties. The Taiwanese also demanded representation in the forthcoming peace treaty negotiations with Japan, hoping to secure a plebiscite to determine the island's political future. A smaller subgroup - including those that later formed the militia known as the "27 Brigade" (二七部隊), with their weapons looted from military bases in Taichung - were motivated by communist ideology. The Settlement Committee eventually settled upon the path of requesting greater autonomy, while stopping short of independence.
Feigning negotiation, the ROC authorities under Chen Yi stalled for time while assembling a large military force in China in Fujian province. Upon arrival on March 8, the ROC troops launched a crackdown.
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By the end of March, Chen had jailed or killed all the leading Taiwanese organizers he could identify and catch. His troops reportedly executed (according to a Taiwanese delegation in Nanjing) between 3,000 and 4,000 people throughout the island. Some of the killings were random, while others were systematic. Taiwanese elites were among those targeted, and many of the Taiwanese who had formed home rule groups during the reign of the Japanese were also victims of the 228 Incident. A disproportionate number of the victims were also Taiwanese middle and high school age youths, as many of them had volunteered to serve in the temporary police forces that were organized by the Committee and the local town councils to maintain public order following the initial rebellion. Many Mainland Chinese civilians who fled to Taiwan in order to avoid civil war also were killed by Taiwanese mobs. Numerous Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese harbored one another during the incident. Taiwanese who spoke Hakka were also targeted by Taiwanese mobs. Several sources have claimed that ROC troops were arresting and executing anyone wearing a student uniform.
Chen Yi was later quoted by TIME magazine on April 7, 1947, as saying: "It took the Japs 51 years to dominate this island. I expect to take about five years to re-educate the people so they will be happier with Chinese administration."
The initial purge was followed by repression under one-party rule, in what was termed "White Terror", which lasted until the end of martial law in 1987. Thousands of people, including both Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese, were imprisoned or executed for their real or perceived dissent, leaving the Taiwanese victims among them with a deep-seated bitterness towards what they term the Chinese Nationalist regime, and by extension, all Mainland Chinese.
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For several decades, the KMT-ruled government prohibited public discussion of the 228 Massacre and many children grew up without knowing this event had ever occurred. In the 1970s (still under a KMT-controlled government) the 228 Justice and Peace Movement was initiated by several citizens' groups to ask for a reversal of this policy, and, in 1992, the Executive Yuan promulgated the "February 28 Incident Research Report." Then-President and KMT-chairman Lee Teng-hui, who as a young nationalist participated in the incident, made a formal apology on behalf of the government in 1995 and declared February 28 a national holiday to commemorate the victims. Among other memorials erected, Taipei New Park was renamed 228 Memorial Park.
Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, the government has set up the 228 Incident Memorial Foundation, a civilian reparations fund supported by public donations for the victims and their families. However, only a few hundred have come forward to claim the money even though the deadline has been extended several times. This may be attributed to the fact that the incident has remained taboo in Taiwan until the lifting of martial law. As a result of this taboo, many descendants of victims remain unaware that their family members were victims, while many of the families of victims from China have also never learned of their relatives' deaths. The families of the massacre victims have demanded the government declassify related documents in order to apprehend any living soldiers responsible for the incident, but the government has not yet acted on this request.
Prior to the 228 Incident, many Taiwanese desired greater autonomy from China but not necessarily outright independence. The failure of conclusive dialogue with the ROC administration in early March, combined with the feelings of betrayal felt towards the government and China in general are widely believed to have catalyzed the Taiwan independence movement and subsequently Taiwan Name Rectification Campaign after democratization.
Later, the KMT-dominated government systematically laid down a social network as well as numerous rules to discriminate against Taiwanese and ensure better social status for those considered "one of the kin members." Financial subsidies and unfair screening rules in schools as well as government departments further deepened the divide. This mechanism, along with KMT's dominance in military, academics and government system, has been silently but firmly building up an invisible "segregation," that continues to fuel the simmering rivalry on this island.
On February 27, 1980, anti-KMT activist Lin Yi-hsiung was in detention and beaten severely by the police. His wife saw him in prison and contacted the Amnesty International Osaka office. The next day Lin's mother and twin 7 year old daughters were stabbed to death. Lin's older daughter was badly wounded in his home. The authorities claimed to know nothing about it, even though allegedly Lin's house was under 24 hour police surveillance.
On February 28, 2004, thousands of Taiwanese participated in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally. They formed a 500-kilometer (300-mile) long human chain, from Taiwan's northernmost city, Keelung, to its southern tip, to commemorate the 228 Incident, to call for peace, and to protest the People's Republic of China's deployment of missiles aimed at Taiwan along the coast of Taiwan Strait. The event was organized by the Pan-Green Coalition. Over two million individuals were estimated to have participated.
Some officials affiliated with the Pan-Blue Coalition have tried to suppress discussion of the 2-28 Incident and subsequent White Terror by stigmatizing continued raising of the subject as "hate speech" directed at all Chinese who came over with Chiang Kai-shek. Pan-Green Coalition officials dismiss this as an attempt to reimpose the old taboo on the subject. Other Pan-Blue officials encourage open discussion of the matter, noting that it was a former KMT president (Lee Teng-hui) who apologized on behalf of the government and designated 2-28 as a memorial holiday. The subject remains a volatile one in Taiwan and a source of racial hostility between the two dominant ethnic groups in Taiwan.
2-28 Incident in art
A number of artists in Taiwan have addressed the subject of the 2-28 Incident since the taboo was lifted on the subject in the early 1990s. The Incident has been the subject of music by Fan-Long Ko and Tyzen Hsiao and a number of literary works. Hou Hsiao-hsien's A City of Sadness, the first movie dealing with the events, won the Golden Lion at the 1989 Venice Film Festival.
A Hollywood film called Formosa Betrayed is due for wide-release in 2010. The film is not based on the historical eyewitness account of the same title by American George H. Kerr, but instead deals with the era of political assassinations that followed the massacre and the period of White Terror.
- History of Taiwan
- History of the Republic of China
- 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally (in 2004)
- Political status of Taiwan
- White Terror (Taiwan)
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
- "傷亡人數與人才斷層". TaiwanUS.net. http://www.taiwanus.net/back_tw_vote/228/book/ch5.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-24. Template:Zh icon
- "Formosa killings are put at 10,000". New York Times, March 29, 1947. 1947. http://www.taiwandc.org/hst-1947.htm. Retrieved 2006-04-22.
- "Charter of the United Nations". Chapter XII: International Trusteeship System. United Nations. June 26, 1945. http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter12.shtml. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
- "Formosa After the War". Reflection on the 228 Event—The first gunshot. 2003. http://www.2003hr.net/English/cul_xb0101.php. Retrieved 2006-03-06.
- "This Is the Shame". Time Magazine. 1946-06-10. http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,792979,00.html. (Subscription required)
- "Seizing-cigarettes Incident". Reflection on the 228 Event—The first gunshot. 2003. http://www.2003hr.net/English/cul_xb0102.php. Retrieved 2006-03-06.
- "Terror in Taiwan". New York Times. 1947. http://www.taiwandc.org/hst-1947.htm. Retrieved 2006-04-22.
- "Formosans' Plea For Red Aid Seen". The New York Times. 1947-03-30. http://228.lomaji.com/news/033047.html. Retrieved 2006-03-06.
- "Snow Red & Moon Angel". Time Magazine. 1947-04-07. http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,804090,00.html. (Subscription required) Full version at 
- AsiaMedia :: TAIWAN: Academics claim future 228 Incident is possible
- 228 Massacre, 60th Commemoration
- www.imdb.com: Beiqing chengshi (1989) - Awards
|40x40px||Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 228 Incident of Taiwan, 1947|
- Formosa Betrayed, a political science book by George H. Kerr that offers a Western perspective and interpretation of the 2-28 incident.-Written in 1965
- Formosa Calling, another Western perspective by Allan James Shackleton, B.E., A.M.I.E.E., Written in 1948
- Taipei 228 Memorial Museum
- Collections of US Media Documentations
- Wikipedia Commons: Images Relevant to the 228 Incident
- Reflection on the 228 Event from Taiwan Human Rights InfoNet
- 228 Incident Memorial Foundation
- Bevin Chu, "Taiwan Independence and the 2-28 Incident", AntiWar.com
- Memorandum for the Ambassador on the Situation in Taiwan
- Taiwan Yearbook: History (Government Information Office)
- Michael Richardson : Boston Progressive Examiner: Anniversary of "228 Massacre" leaves unfinished business in Taiwan for war crimes
- Michael Richardson : Boston Progressive Examiner: Chiang Kai-shek ordered "228 Massacre" to crush uprising against Chinese rule of Taiwan
- Michael Richardson : Boston Progressive Examiner:Taiwan's "228 Massacre" survivor (郭勝華醫師) seeks justice for war crime against her father (郭章垣醫師)
- Declaration of Formosan Human Rights (福爾摩沙住民自決)
- Taipei Times Editorial (自由時報社論): 228 Were International War Crimes Against The Territorial Sovereignty 二二八不是內部鎮壓而是國際罪行 (美國盟軍統帥有責)
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