Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Taiwanese History: The 2/28 Massacre

Taiwanese Flag flies at half-mast over the National Palace Museum 2/28/2011,
Yesterday, Taiwan commemorated the 228 Incident. It is also referred to as the 228 Massacre. The incident is called that because it took place on February 28, 1947. As recently as 1995, this incident, which was officially taboo, for many years, became the catalyst for the Anti-Chiang Kai Shek sentiment in Taiwan. Chiang Kai Shek was the leader of the Kou Ming Tang party and president of the Republic of China in 1947. This was prior to the communists under Mao Tze Tung defeating Kou Ming Tang troops and the subsequent removal of the Republic of China to the island of Taiwan.

Taiwan has a somewhat complicated history. A number of countries have controlled Taiwan in the past, such as Portugal (when the island was called Formosa) and most recently, by the Japanese. prior to the Republic of China’s rule It was at the end of the Japanese rule that the events were set for this event.

At the end of the Sino-Japanese war in 1895, China turned control of Taiwan over to Japanese leadership. By the twenties, Japan had put down all armed resistance to their rule and began to build the economy and raised the standard of living for the Taiwanese people. Many Taiwanese people of that time spoke both Taiwanese and Japanese.

After World War 2, the defeat of Japan necessitated that Taiwan come under the rule of the Republic of China in order to provide stability in the vacuum created by the defeat of the Japanese Empire. The Governor-general of Taiwan arrived October 24, 1945 and the Japanese governor of the island signed the surrender papers and turned the island over the the Republic of China. However, Japan did not renounce its sovereignty over the island until 1952. Many Taiwanese viewed the Japanese rule favorably, because of the economic benefit to the citizens and harbored anti-Chinese sentiment, because they considered the Chinese government to be backwards and corrupt. China's economic mismanagement led to a huge black-market, runaway inflation and food shortages in Taiwan. In addition, Republic of China soldiers were undisciplined and participated in looting, and stealing.
These were the conditions that the people of Taiwan were enduring on February 27, 1947, when the Tobacco Monopoly Board sent armed officers to confiscate contraband tobacco products being sold by a widow named, Lin Jiang-mai. In addition to the contraband, the agents also confiscated her life savings.  As she begged for her savings, a tobacco agent cracked her skull with a pistol. The bystanders rose up and chased the agents from the scene. The crowd already frustrated with Chinese rule, complained to Police and received no response; violence flared. The protest moved to the Governor-general's office where troops opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators killing several.

On March 29, 1947, The New York Times reported that Republic of China troops arrived in Taiwan, on March 7, under orders of the president of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai Shek, and indulged in three days of killing and looting. The New York Times reporter said that everyone on the street was shot at and that the streets were littered with dead. They reported beheadings, mutilation of bodies and women raped. According to the New York Times 10,000 people were killed.*

Formosa killings are put at 10,000". New York Times, March 29, 1947. http://www.taiwandc.org/hst-1947.htm

Other posts you may be interested in: 

Taiwanese History:  The Chiang Kai Shek Mausoleum
Taiwanese History:  Double Tenth Day
Taiwanese Travelogue:  The Revolutionary Martyr's Shrine

1 comment:

  1. Hey! just want to say I really enjoy your blog. Interesting especially since I am planning on doing an internship in Taiwan soon! :) keep doing the updates.