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Pursuit of truth of 228 Incident to help bring unity: Tsai

2016/02/28 21:24:56

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen.

Taipei, Feb. 28 (CNA) President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Sunday that her government will pursue the truth and bring real reconciliation to unite the nation that has not recovered from the 228 Incident in 1947.

Noting her campaign promise made a year ago to "bring an end to the historic mistake," Tsai said at a memorial event marking the 69th anniversary of the 228 Incident in Taipei that Taiwan's simple and humane society was twisted by the 1947 event and the subsequent White Terror era and authoritarian rule.

The incident refers to an anti-government uprising that began in Taiwan on Feb. 28, 1947 and the subsequent brutal crackdown by the Kuomintang (KMT) government. The Taiwanese were protesting KMT abuses of power after Japanese colonial rule ended in 1945.

An estimated 18,000 to 28,000 people were killed during the crackdown, which lasted for several weeks into early May.

Tsai said society still has unhealed wounds, despite the establishment of a monument and 228 Memorial Park in Taipei, two official reports and apologies made by presidents on behalf of the government since 1995.

That is why an important task of her government is to develop a transitional justice policy so that society as a whole can face the painful past together and remember the lessons in order not to make the same mistake, according to Tsai.

"It is fundamental for a civilized country to bravely face its dark history, which is also a process Taiwan's democracy needs to go through to become mature and deepened," she said.

Tsai, who will take office May 20, said documents from the days when Taiwan was under authoritarian rule should be researched and made public, and people are encouraged to share materials they have with the government to help discover the truth.

A commission for truth and reconciliation will be created to draft, amend and implement related laws, so the country can move forward from the dark history, she said.

Tsai's pledge to seek the truth was in response to remarks made on behalf of family members of victims of the 228 Incident by Pan Hsin-hsing (潘信行).

Pan said the government under Tsai will control a majority in the Legislature and should pass a law to set up an organization similar to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Pan said the reports on the 228 Incident published by the Executive Yuan failed to present the complete truth, because they only looked into the victims but not the perpetrators.

The Taiwan education transitional justice alliance also held a protest around Taipei's 228 Memorial Park, calling for a more accurate description of the 228 Incident in school textbooks that would include the naming of perpetrators.

Cheng Tzu-tsai (鄭自才), designer of the 228 Incident monument in the park, said the historic truth should be restored and people responsible for the brutal government crackdown in 1947 should be punished to bring peace to the souls of the victims.

The call to establish a commission for truth and reconciliation was also put forward by Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) in a separate memorial event held in the central city, since only truth and reconciliation can lead to peace.

Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (賴清德), meanwhile, said the new government has to ensure the carrying out of transitional justice, in order to meet public expectations, after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) he belongs to won the Jan. 16 presidential and legislative elections.

Taiwanese society may choose to forgive, but the only solution to the 228 Incident is to restore the facts, apologize and compensate victims, Lai said in the memorial ceremony in the southern city.

Vice President-elect Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) and Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) took to their Facebook page to express their views.

"The sinners can be forgiven, but their crimes must be condemned," Chen wrote, adding that he and Tsai are very aware of their responsibility to establish the historic truth of the 228 Incident and the White Terror.

Su, who attended with Tsai an annual memorial at Taipei's Gikong Presbyterian Church for the 228 Incident and the murder of former DPP Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung's (林義雄) mother and twin daughters on Feb. 28, 1980, posted online that the nation needs to face the 1947 event honestly and pursue the truth through legislations in order to carry out transitional justice.

(By Sophia Yeh, Hsu Chih-wei, Yang Sz-ruei, Liao Jen-kai, Wang Cheng-chung and Kay Liu)