I thought today would be a good time to visit the 228 Memorial Museum (台北二二八紀念館) in Taipei City. Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of the 228 incident.
The museum is quite small and there are no English signs. However, you can borrow an audio guide (available in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, English and Japanese) which gives a commentary and explanation of all the exhibits in the museum. The museum begins by explaining the history of the Japanese era in Taiwan, followed by the arrival of the ROC forces at the end of WWII and the events leading up to and after the 228 incident.
The poster above depicts a massacre of civilians at Keelung Harbour. Incredibly one man survived and lived to tell the tale.
My strongest impression from visiting the museum was that there are just so many stories that need to be told. An article in the Taipei Times earlier this month contained some words that really show how deep the impact of 228 and the White Terror period were on the lives of so many people in Taiwan.
"It's been almost 40 years since I got out of jail and I haven't made any new friends," said Chen Meng-ho (陳孟和), a former political prisoner.
Chen was arrested for "reading socialist books" in 1949 and imprisoned for 15 years.
"I've never gotten in touch with my old friends either. I've been too afraid that people would be afraid of me," he continued. "I've imprisoned myself," he said.
Chen explained the source of his fear.
He once ran into a close cousin on the street after his release. As he approached his cousin, his cousin said: "I don't know you," and quickly turned away.
It is not just the people that died that need to be remembered. Think of all the families that were affected by the deaths and those who spent time in prison or were forced into exile. And people like Chen Meng-ho who have had to spend their lives living in constant fear.
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This photo shows a plaque in Nanjing West Road, Taipei City (台北市南京西路). It marks the site where, on 27 February 1947, ROC soldiers seized cigarettes from a vendor sparking off the 228 incident. The English on the plaque reads:
The Flashpoint of the February 28 Incident
Following the end of the Second World War, the Taiwanese people suffered under the misrule of Chen Yi, the Chief Executive Officer of Taiwan Province, and feelings of deep discontent developed. On the evening of February 27, 1947, six inspectors from the Provincial Monopoly Bureau attempted to confiscate smuggled cigarettes from an elderly female vendor. When she resisted, they struck her on the head with a pistol, and she began to bleed. In the ensuing chaos a witness to these events was accidentally shot dead. Angry crowds marched to the local police station to demand that the killers be punished, and large-scale demonstrations for political reforms took place the very next day. The government responded by launching a bloody military suppression, a tragedy known as the February 28 Incident. Here is the spot where the first shot was fired.
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I am sure a lot of articles will appear in the media about 228 and its significance over the next few days. A few other bloggers have already written about it.
- nostalgiphile issues a call to teachers
- Patrick Cowsill quotes a 1946 Time article which helps explain some of the reasons the Taiwanese were driven to rebel against the ROC administration
- The Mandate of Heaven links to some news articles from 1947
- John Diedrichs wrote an excellent opinion piece in the Taipei Times about how the history of Formosa should really be told
- Alton Thompson writes about the 228 Anniversary
Finally amongst the many events to commemorate 228 there is the Spirit of Taiwan event at the Zhongshan Stadium in Taipei. Starting at 12:00 midday it features performances by musicians from Taiwan and overseas and films about 228.