February 28, 1947: Thousands die in the 228 Massacre. The Japanese had ruled Taiwan for fifty years, but that ended when World War II came to a close. In October 1945, the United States on behalf of the Allied Forces, gave temporary administrative control of Taiwan to the Kuomintang (KMT) Republic of China (ROC) under General Order No. 1. During Japanese control of the island, many Taiwanese had prospered. Japan had used the island as a supply base and improved economic conditions for the locals. The Japanese were seen as helpful and many Taiwanese adopted Japanese names and practiced Shinto. Many were also bilingual.
When the Chinese were given temporary control, many Taiwanese were resentful. The ROC was to provide stability until a permanent solution could be found. Chen Yi was the Governor-General of Taiwan and arrived on October 24, 1945. The next day, Ando Rikichi, the last Japanese governor, signed a formal surrender document which made Taiwan part of China. The KMT troops were initially welcomed but the heavy-handed administration and apparent corruption in the government and the military brought great dissatisfaction. Because of mismanagement, the black market flourished, there was runaway inflation, and food shortages.
On the evening of February 27, 1947, a Tobacco Monopoly Bureau enforcement team went to a district in Taipei and confiscated illegal cigarettes from a 40-year-old widow. She resisted and slapped a man holding a gun who struck her in the head with his pistol. The Taiwanese came to the widow’s defense and as the altercation escalated, shots were fired. A crowd began to protest this treatment and the following morning, violence erupted into a full riot. The fighting back and forth calmed and flared over the next several weeks. Chen Yi and his troops eventually got control of the island once again, but thousands (conflicting numbers are given) had been killed in the fighting or executed.
For many years it was taboo to talk about this event at all. Chen Yi was himself executed by the government and families were compensated for their losses. However, this did not appease those who had been victimized by the Chinese troops. In 2004, on the 57th anniversary of 228, the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally was held. It was a demonstration of solidarity. A human chain was formed with about two million people (1.9 to 2.3 million depending on the source) forming a 500 km or 310 mile human chain. Starting at the harbor at Keelung, Taiwan’s northernmost city, the chain wended its way to Eluanbi, Pingtung County at the southern tip of the island. The purpose was dual in nature. The Taiwanese wished for peace, but they were also protesting the deployment of missiles by the People’s Republic of China aimed at Taiwan, their island neighbor.
Free nations of the world cannot allow Taiwan, a beacon of democracy, to be subdued by an authoritarian China. – Nick Lampson
The public weal requires that men should betray, and lie, and massacre. – Michel de Montaigne
It is hard, I submit, to loathe bloodshed, including war, more than I do, but it is still harder to exceed my loathing of the very nature of totalitarian states in which massacre is only an administrative detail. – Vladimir Nabokov
Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind. – John F. Kennedy
Also on this day: Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
B&O Railroad – In 1827, a law was passed to form the B&O Railroad.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised.
Betrayal – In 1844, an explosion aboard the USS Princeton shocked the nation.