Today it’s just February 28, the last day of the month, but in Taiwan Province 228 is a day that will be remembered in their history. On February 28, 1947, the Republic of China armed forces with help from the United States, who transported soldiers to Taiwan initiated a series of brutal crackdowns against the local rebellions rising in the province. These genuine rebellions against the KMT’s handling of the province were ignited when provincial policemen beat a local woman for illegally selling cigarettes in Taipei. This incident of police brutality sparked protests from all parts of Taiwan who pressured the then-governor, Chen Yi, to respond to this incident.
Due to the inability of the war-weary KMT administrators to properly resolve the situation and from rising tensions between the Taiwanese, who were successfully “Japanised” during the colonial period and the “Mainlanders” who still had memories of the recent war in their minds, these problems eventually exploded into a genuine rebellion when KMT soldiers fired on Taiwanese protesters. Eventually the rebellion spread to the rest of the islands, but politicians from each party will place their own spin on the motivations of the rebellion.
The Taiwanese independence groups will try to tell outsiders that this was actually the first of many attempts at proclaiming Taiwanese independence and are eager to point out the Japanese-educated elites that participated in the protests against the KMT administration during this period. Moreover, they keep pointing out that Taiwan’s quality of life was superior under Japanese rule and most locals saw the Chinese Mainlanders as just backwards and riding on the Americans for winning the war.
The other end of the spectrum will say that this was a rebellion fomented by Taiwanese communists with help from the CCP and from Japanese colonial loyalists. They also point out that the ROC troops sent to the island were able to round up many Communist agents in the 228 crackdown and pointed out that Lee Teng-Hui was the man who gave out the name of all the prominent Taiwanese communists that were contributing to the rebellion. There were also accounts of Taiwanese war veterans dressed in IJA uniforms and killing anyone who did not understand Minnan Chinese with katanas as well as Japanese-educated elites who did not want to revert to Chinese ways, which they saw as backwards.
The fact of the matter is, 228 was a genuine rebellion against KMT mismanagement and consisted of individuals who were simply angered at the misrule, individuals that actually wanted independence, individuals that wanted to return to Japanese rule, agent provocateurs from the CCP, and even idealists. Much of the crackdown on 228 ranged from coordinated killings of suspected leaders to random revenge attacks on the wrong people.
One has to be aware that the troops sent to Taiwan were fresh from fighting the IJA in WW2 and seeing an island where women wore kimonos, random rebels in IJA garb, and mostly locals that only understood Japanese gave these troops a perfect opportunity to conduct revenge attacks on what they saw as Japanese or Japanese collaborators. There were accounts how the KMT chain dozens of suspected rebels using fishhooks and dumped them all somewhere in Jilong harbour, there were stories how random Japanese colonial elites were rounded up and shot in open fields, and then there were accounts of how supporters of the KMT were wrongly killed in all the confusion and carnage.
I do not sympathise with the children of Japanese colonials elites who lamented at the loss of their luxury items or their right to proudly wear kimonos in the streets of Taihoku (Taibei) as they call it. I don’t sympathise with the communist agents or Japanese loyalists who encouraged tensions to push their own twisted agendas to their overlords. I truly do not care if the ROC troops killed anyone that was running around in IJA military garb that were also killing “Mainlanders”. However, I am disgusted by the human tragedy that arose from this event: people who don’t want to be Chinese because of this incident, the people who were wrongly killed due to misunderstandings from both sides, the intervention of outsiders, such as the Americans/Communists/Japanese that worsened the situation, and the perversion of this event for political purposes.
Recently the government on Taiwan Province has allowed the event to be taught and discussed after censoring it for nearly 50 years. Instead of using this event as a lesson to properly understand the underlying events and the context that led to such problems, politicians have used this to only reignite local tensions in the island. In this year’s commemoration of the “Peace Memorial Day” many statues of Chiang Kai-Shek are defaced and the anti-Chinese sentiment is encouraged to build a “Taiwanese” identity. They have failed to teach people that it was a crackdown conducted by a political party against rebels instead making the entire tragedy look like a Chinese versus Taiwanese struggle to tie it with Taiwanese independence. The KMT and their supporters do not deny the incident like some power structures and individuals in Japan or Germany and they do not use it to increase local tensions.
It’s interesting to note that pan-Green politicians tend to always have a need for an external enemy to expand their power among their supporters. Their enemies or the enemies of the “Taiwanese” can be either the opposition parties, Chinese people or simply the PRC. The truth is, if the Taiwanese truly believe they are independent they would realise that China can do little to influence their island and they would focus on internal issues that aren’t being addressed by the ruling power structure. However, by keeping people obsessed over the PRC, and human tragedies to promote internal tensions in their favour, the pan-Green power structure can maintain their grip on power and even steal taxpayer money on the side in some cases. In any case, it’s just sad that a group would use human tragedies for their own perverse agendas. The pan-Green and their Taiwanese supporters have sealed their fates with these kinds of actions.
Happy Peace Memorial Day: lets all learn to hate the Chinks and work to send all the Mainlanders straight to Hell rather than learning how to prevent such tragedies in the first place! (note the sarcasm)