I arrived at 228 Peace Park just as Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) was finishing his speech. I then watched on as Vice-President Annette Lu and President Chen Shui-bian gave their speeches. As they both spoke in Hoklo Taiwanese I didn't understand what they said. The Taipei Times gives a good summary of Chen's speech.
Speaking in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said that pretending the murder of tens of thousands of people never happened, or playing down the incident, is tantamount to rejecting universal human rights.
"If we cannot face the past, we cannot construct the future," he said.
Chen said some people had questioned whether it was necessary to continue to commemorate the 228 Incident each year, as it happened decades ago.
Some, he said, had argued that it was meaningless to do so and that discussing what happened only opened old wounds and exploited the past for political gains to spark social tensions.
Citing the words of Master Sheng Yen (聖嚴法師), Chen said the country would forever live under a shadow — the memory of the 228 Incident and the White Terror — if the public did not accept and deal with the truth.
A-bian arrived to an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd. While he has had to bear much criticism of his Presidency he still remains hugely popular with many people in Taiwan. He then spent over 40 minutes walking through the crowd shaking hands, including the hand of Prince Roy. Even though I didn't get to shake A-bian's hand I can at least say I shook the hand that shook A-bian's hand! Also Darren took a great photo just moments after the one I took above.
President Chen, along with former Vice-Premier Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Vice-President Lu and Presidential Office Secretary-General Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) then awaited the arrival of the Walk Against the Wind (逆風前進.最愛台灣) march participants. The "Walk Against the Wind" began in Eluanbi, the southern tip of Taiwan, on 5 February. Young Taiwanese people participated in the march in support of Frank Hsieh's Presidential election campaign.
The participants were all individually greeted by A-bian, Annette Lu, Yeh Chu-lan and Tsai Ying-wen. A-bian gave out high fives, hugs and hand shakes to the participants.
After A-bian departed the crowds soon dispersed, with many joining the march to Zhongshan Stadium for the evening rally. There was then a mini-convergence of Taiwan bloggers with Darren, Craig, Prince Roy, Poagao and Mark all present.
Along with Craig and Darren I took the MRT to Zhongshan Station and we then went to the corner of Zhongshan and Chang'an Roads to watch the march go past. It was a wonderfully noisy sea of green flag waving and friendly faces.
Finally we arrived at Zhongshan Stadium for the "Love & Trust 228" rally where we met Todd. The stadium was packed and we went around taking photos and absorbing the atmosphere.
The rally reached its climax with speeches by Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Frank Hsieh (謝長廷). Again the speeches here were mostly in Hoklo Taiwanese so check the newspapers for reports about what they said.
After Hsieh and Su left the stage a group of Amis aborigines came on stage to perform. Their singing and dancing was very nice and well worth staying on for.
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With the Presidential election less than one month away it was inevitable that the day would be packed with political events and campaigning. I wrote about 228 on this blog last year. What happened in 1947 continues to influence Taiwanese society today. 228 is a scar that has not been fully healed and there is still a long way to go to achieving genuine transitional justice. It is important that the event continue to be studied and understood by everyone in Taiwan. If Ma Ying-jeou is elected President then it is quite likely 228 will no longer be a public holiday in Taiwan.
No peace without justice. Never forget.
*more photos in the 228 in Taipei set at flickr.