Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has slammed the late Chiang Kai-shek as the main culprit for the massacres that took place on the island in 1947 and afterward. Taiwan’s political opposition responded saying that the charges are just political propaganda. But everybody is in favour of debating the country’s recent history.
“Historical archives all show that Chiang Kai-shek was the prime culprit in the February 28  incident, which is not just a historical incident, but is more like a slaughter, a criminal act,” Mr Chen said yesterday at the opening of a seminar on the massacre.
The exchange of more than 90 letters between Chiang and then Taiwan governor Chen Yi show the generalissimo was aware of and deeply involved in the suppression, Mr Chen said.
On February 28, 1947, police fired on a crowd of protesters in Taipei. The protest turned into a revolt that was crushed in blood when Kuomintang (KMT) troops were sent from Mainland.
“Those who violated human rights and committed the crime should be legally prosecuted and receive sanctions under the law,” Chen said, referring to the deaths of tens of thousands of Taiwanese. Furthermore, the dictator’s name should be struck from public places.
In the last few years, statues of Chiang, which were once seen all over the capital and in military barracks, have been removed.
But for the KMT Chen’s attack against Chiang is an attempt to make political hay ahead of the March 2008 presidential elections.
“Being the leader of [Taiwan], Chen Shui-bian should have led people here to look forward, instead of once again agitating the ethnic conflict,” said KMT lawmaker Hsu Hsiao-ping.
Led by the government-funded 228 Memorial Foundation, dozens of local civic groups will mark the 60th anniversary of the massacre in various commemorative events. Some 10,000 people are expected to rally in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei tomorrow to launch the first part of the commemorations—which has been labelled “Protecting Taiwan.”
Other activities will include a two-day seminar to discuss the incident and its impact, a mass “March for Taiwan” jog, the opening of a memorial hall in memory of the victims, and the tolling of bells and beating of drums at 2.28 pm tomorrow.
“The activities are aimed at upholding transitional justice and finding a new perspective for the 228 Incident,” said foundation chairman Chen Chin-huang.
According to government spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang, transitional justice is an issue for all emerging democracies seeking to deal with the legacy of authoritarian rule. Through it, “Taiwan will be able to consolidate its democracy," Mr Cheng said.
Martial law was imposed during the massacre and was lifted only in 1987. And for years just talking about it was banned.
The KMT held power till 2000 when Chen Shui-bian and his Democratic Progressive Party won the elections
Analysts note that now it is possible to talk about the recent past in Taiwan and change “official” truths imposed for decades. By contrast, on the mainland, it is still impossible to discuss the past, whether it is Mao’s anti-rightist campaign, the Cultural Revolution or the recent anti-corruption campaign.
Last month mainland authorities began censoring these and other episodes in China’s modern history. Just mentioning them is banned.
Books about them have also been criticised and banned.
In Beijing it is even impossible to discuss the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
For the censors all this is necessary to promote a harmonious atmosphere in the country in preparation of upcoming national and party gatherings. (PB)