February 28 incident
The February 28 incident or the February 28 massacre, also known as the 228 (or 2/28) incident (from Chinese: 二二八事件; pinyin: Èr’èrbā shìjiàn), was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government, which killed thousands of civilians beginning on February 28, 1947. The number of Taiwanese deaths from the incident and massacre was estimated to be between 5,000 and 28,000. The massacre marked the beginning of the White Terror in which tens of thousands of other Taiwanese went missing, died or were imprisoned. The incident is one of the most important events in Taiwan's modern history and was a critical impetus for the Taiwan independence movement.
People gathered in front of the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau on February 28, 1947
|Date||February 28, 1947|
|Cause||High-handed and frequently corrupt conduct on the part of the Kuomintang|
|Outcome||Beginning of the White Terror|
In 1945, following the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, the Allies handed administrative control of Taiwan to the Republic of China (ROC), thus ending 50 years of Japanese colonial rule. Local inhabitants became resentful of what they saw as high-handed and frequently corrupt conduct on the part of the Kuomintang (KMT) authorities, including arbitrary seizure of private property and their economic mismanagement. The flashpoint came on February 27, 1947 in Taipei, when KMT investigators suspected a Taiwanese widow of selling contraband cigarettes, and beat her. The crowd was in uproar, and the investigator shot into the crowd, killing a man. The violence spread, and people on both side of the conflict were accused of indiscriminate killings. The uprising was violently put down by the National Revolutionary Army, and the island was placed under martial law.
The subject was officially taboo for decades because those who talked about it were tortured and killed by the KMT. They were silenced for 50 years in an attempt to erase the terror from Taiwanese minds. On the anniversary of the event in 1995, President Lee Teng-hui addressed the subject publicly, a first. The event is now openly discussed and details of the event have become the subject of government and academic investigation. February 28 has been designated Peace Memorial Day (和平紀念日; hépíng jìniànrì), an official public holiday. 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 exonerating any victims previously blacklisted as enemies of the state. Monuments and memorial parks to the victims of 2/28 have been erected in a number of Taiwanese cities, including Kaohsiung and Taipei. Taipei's former "Taipei New Park" was rededicated as 228 Peace Memorial Park and houses the National 228 Memorial Museum to commemorate the incident. The museum opened on February 28, 1997, and re-opened on February 28, 2011, with new permanent exhibits.
|February 28 incident|
|February 28 Massacre|
The incident is literally called the "two-two-eight incident" in Chinese, which means "2nd month 28th day incident", or precisely "2/28 incident". Most East Asian languages generally use numbers for the months, like "yyyy year, m month, dd day" with all numbers being read out as cardinals without any leading zeroes. Other historical events named using the same convention include Tianamen Square massacre/protests (六四天安門事件 "six-four incident", 1989 China), May 15 incident (五・一五事件 "five-one-five incident", 1932 Japan), March 1st movement (三一運動 "three-one movement", 1919 Korea) or even 9/11 of 2001 in the USA, which uses m/d/y.
During the 50 years of Japanese rule in Taiwan (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. Consequently, Taiwanese perceptions of the Japanese rule were more favourable than perceptions in other parts of East and Southeast Asia. Taiwanese adopted Japanese names and practiced Shinto, while the schools instilled a sense of "Japanese spirit" in students. By the time World War II began, many Taiwanese were proficient in the Japanese language.
After 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. Chen Yi then proclaimed the day as Retrocession Day to make Taiwan part of the Republic of China, although there were questions about the legality of doing so.
The Kuomintang (KMT) troops from Mainland China were initially welcomed by local inhabitants, but their harsh behaviour and the KMT maladministration led to Taiwanese discontent during the immediate postwar period. As Governor-General, Chen Yi took over and sustained the Japanese system of state monopolies in tobacco, sugar, camphor, tea, paper, chemicals, petroleum refining, mining and cement, just the way the Nationalists treated people in other former Japanese-controlled areas (people nicknamed him robber "劫收"). He confiscated some 500 Japanese-owned factories and mines, and homes of former Japanese residents. Economic mismanagement led to a large black market, runaway inflation and food shortages. Many commodities were compulsorily bought cheaply by the KMT administration and shipped to Mainland China to meet the Civil War shortages where they were sold at very high profit furthering the general shortage of goods in Taiwan. The price of rice rose to 100 times its original value between the time the Nationalists took over to the spring of 1946, increasing to nearly 4 times the price in Shanghai. It inflated further to 400 times the original price by January 1947. Carpetbaggers from Mainland China dominated nearly all industry, as well as political and judicial offices, displacing the Taiwanese who were formerly employed. Many of the ROC garrison troops were highly undisciplined, looting, stealing and contributing to the overall breakdown of infrastructure and public services. Because the Taiwanese elites had met with some success with self-government under Japanese rule, they had expected the same system from the incoming ruling Chinese Nationalist 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 followed this ideology because of unpleasant experiences with the centrifugal forces during the Warlord Era in 1916–1928 that had torn the government in China. Mainland Communists were even preparing to bring down the government like the Ili Rebellion. The different goals of the Nationalists and the Taiwanese, coupled with cultural and language misunderstandings served to further inflame tensions on both sides.
Uprising and crackdownEdit
On the evening of February 27, 1947, a Tobacco Monopoly Bureau enforcement team in Taipei went to the district of Taiheichō (太平町), Twatutia (present-day Nanjing West Road), where they confiscated contraband cigarettes from a 40-year-old widow named Lin Jiang-mai (林江邁) at the Tianma Tea House. When she demanded their return, one of the men holding a gun hit Lin's head with a pistol, prompting the surrounding Taiwanese crowd to challenge the Tobacco Monopoly agents. As they fled, one agent shot his gun into the crowd, killing one bystander. The crowd, which had already been harboring many feelings of frustration from unemployment, inflation and corruption of the Nationalist government, reached its breaking point. The crowd protested to both the police and the gendarmes, but was mostly ignored.
Violence flared the following morning on February 28. Security forces at the Governor-General's Office tried to disperse the crowd. Some fired on the protesters who were 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 forced their way into local radio station to protest. By evening, martial law had been declared and curfews were enforced by the arrest or shooting of anyone who violated curfew.
For several weeks after the February 28 incident, the Taiwanese civilians controlled much of Taiwan. The initial riots were spontaneous and somewhat violent. Within a few days the Taiwanese were generally coordinated and organized, and public order in Taiwanese-held areas was upheld by volunteer civilians organized by students, and unemployed former Japanese army soldiers. Local leaders 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 the ROC Army to the Settlement Committee, and an end to governmental corruption. Motivations among the various Taiwanese groups varied; some demanded greater autonomy within the ROC, while others wanted UN trusteeship or full independence. 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.
Outside of Taipei, it was less peaceful. Mainland Chinese received revenge attacks of violence. Public places like banks and post offices were looted. Some had to flee for Military Police protection. A few smaller groups formed, including the "27 Brigade". They looted 3 machine guns, 300 rifles, and hand grenades from military arsenals in Taichung and Pingtung. The armed Taiwanese shot or injured around 200 Nationalist Army soldiers which quickly precipitated the house arrest or execution of those who participated in the rebellion.
The Nationalist Government, under Chen Yi, stalled for time while it reassembled the retreating ROC armies when the armies' reached Fujian. Upon its arrival on March 8, the ROC troops launched a crackdown. The New York Times reported, "An American who had just arrived in China from Taihoku said that troops from the mainland 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 said."
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By the end of March, Chen Yi had ordered the imprisonment or execution of the leading Taiwanese organizers he could identify. His troops reportedly executed, according to a Taiwanese delegation in Nanjing, between 3,000 and 4,000 people throughout the island. The exact number is still undetermined, as only 300 Taiwanese families applied for another compensation as recently as 1990. Detailed records kept by the KMT have been reported as "lost". Some of the killings were random, while others were systematic. Taiwanese elites were among those targeted, and many of the Taiwanese who had formed self-governing groups during the reign of the Japanese were also victims of the 228 incident. A disproportionate number of the victims were Taiwanese high school students. Many had recently served in the Imperial Japanese Army, having volunteered to serve to maintain order. Mainland Chinese civilians who fled were often beaten by Taiwanese.
Some Taiwan political organizations participated in the uprising, for example Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, was announced "communist" and illegal. Many members were arrested and executed. Some of these organizations had to move to Hong Kong.
The initial 228 purge was followed by discovery of communist infiltrators from communist mainland China under one-party rule, in what was termed "White Terror," which lasted until the end of 1987. Thousands of people, including both mainland Chinese and Taiwanese, were imprisoned or executed for their dissent, leaving the Taiwanese with a deep-seated bitterness towards what they term the Nationalist regime and, by extension, all Chinese not born in Taiwan or anyone supporting the KMT or CCP. Disappearances were common, and the people feared being captured and executed.
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For several decades, it was taboo to openly criticize the 228 massacre incident. The government hoped that the execution of Governor Chen Yi and financial compensation for the victims had quelled resentment. In the 1970s 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 had participated in the incident and was arrested as an instigator and a Communist sympathizer made a formal apology on behalf of the government in 1995 and declared February 28 a day 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. Many descendants of victims remain unaware that their family members were victims, while many of the families of victims from Mainland China did not know the details of their relatives' mistreatment during the riot. Those who have received compensation more than two times are demanding trials of the still-living soldiers and officials who were responsible for the summary executions and deaths of their loved ones.
Prior to the 228 massacre, many Taiwanese hoped for a greater autonomy from China. 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 today's Taiwan independence movement and subsequently the Taiwan Name Rectification Campaign after democratization.
On February 28, 2004, thousands of Taiwanese participated in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally. They formed a 500-kilometer (310 mi) long human chain, from Taiwan's northernmost city 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.
In 2006, the Research Report on Responsibility for the 228 Massacre was released after several years of research. The 2006 report was not intended to overlap with the prior (1992) 228 Massacre Research Report commissioned by the Executive Yuan. Chiang Kai-shek is specifically named as bearing the largest responsibility in the 2006 report. However, some hardline academics have tried to confuse these conclusions, stating the departing Japanese colonial government was responsible by creating food shortages and causing inflation.
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. The 2009 thriller Formosa Betrayed also relates the incident as part of the motivation behind Taiwan independence activist characters.
Jennifer Chow's novel, The 228 Legacy (2013) (Martin Sisters Publishing), brings to light the emotional ramifications for those who lived through the events yet suppressed their knowledge out of fear. It focuses on how there was such an impact that it permeated throughout multiple generations within the same family.
In 2017, Taiwanese game developer Red Candle Games launched Detention, a survival horror video game created and developed for Steam. It is a 2D atmospheric horror side-scroller set in 1960s Taiwan under martial law following the 228 incident. The game also incorporates religious elements based on Taiwanese culture and mythology. The game has received favourable reviews from critics. Rely On Horror gave the game a 9 out of 10, saying that "every facet of Detention moves in one harmonious lockstep towards an unavoidable tragedy, drowning out the world around you."
- Formosa Betrayed (1965 book)
- History of Taiwan
- History of the Republic of China
- List of massacres in Taiwan
- The First 228 Peace Memorial Monument
- 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally (in 2004)
- Political status of Taiwan
- White Terror (Taiwan)
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
- KMT retreat to Taiwan in 1949
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 228 Incident of Taiwan, 1947.|
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- The 228 Incident and Taiwan's Transitional Justice – The Diplomat
- Japanese 228 victim's son awarded compensation – Taipei Times
- Tsai vows to investigate 228 Incident – Taipei Times
- Family of Korean killed in Taiwan's '228 Incident' in 1947 to get compensation – The Japan Times
- KMT slows transitional justice: Koo – Taipei Times
- Forum underlines importance of 228 education – Taipei Times
- Chiang Kai-shek removal backed – Taipei Times
- 228 evidence indicts Chiang: academic – Taipei Times
- Document unearthed shows double-dealing of Chiang behind 228 Incident – Taiwan News