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Tsai outlines transitional justice efforts at 228 Incident memorial

02/28/2024 02:32 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (center, standing) speaks to the 228 Incident victims' families at a memorial ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the incident in Chiayi County Wednesday.
President Tsai Ing-wen (center, standing) speaks to the 228 Incident victims' families at a memorial ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the incident in Chiayi County Wednesday.

Taipei, Feb. 28 (CNA) Outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) outlined the advances on transitional justice made by her administration during her address at a memorial ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the 228 Incident in Chiayi County on Wednesday.

Tsai said her government has made a series of efforts to implement transitional justice, including admitting wrongdoing, issuing apologies to victims of the incident, launching investigations, and paying compensation.

It has passed or amended five pieces of legislation, formed a special Cabinet-level body to promote transition justice, and published four investigative reports on the 228 Incident and the ensuing White Terror period that lasted for 38 years from 1949 to 1987 when Taiwan was under martial law.

Also, a foundation established in early 2023 responsible for compensating victims of the 228 Incident and White Terror period has so far accepted compensation claims from nearly 2,000 applicants, she said.

It has paid more than NT$4 billion (US$12.6 million) in compensation to victims and their families who had their property confiscated illegally by the government, Tsai said.

Efforts have also been made to declassify previously sealed national security files to learn more about the 228 Incident and White Terror period, she said.

The Political Archives Act was amended last year to require political files categorized as national security information to be declassified after 40 years instead of being kept confidential forever, she said. The revisions took effect Wednesday.

"In [declassifying documents], the government is not targeting any specific political party. We are doing so to take the responsibility for previous authoritarian regime's illegal action," she said.

Despite these efforts, however, Tsai said she understood that the "horrible memories and scars" will not go away easily for the victims and their families, "but we must find a way to co-exist peacefully with the past and build an more open society together."

"We shall never forget the past nor shall we choose not to commemorate the past because we are too afraid to do so," Tsai said.

CNA photo Feb. 28, 2024
CNA photo Feb. 28, 2024

The 228 Incident was triggered by a clash between government officials and an illegal cigarette vendor in Taipei on Feb. 27, 1947, leading to protests a day later that were violently suppressed.

The crackdown triggered a broader anti-government uprising islandwide that was put down by then-Kuomintang (KMT) military forces.

An estimated 18,000 to 28,000 people were killed during the crackdown, which lasted into early May, according to an investigation commissioned by the Cabinet in 1992.

During the ceremony, Tsai exonerated four 228 Incident victims -- Wu Tien-shang (吳天賞), Tu Kuan-huang (杜崑煌), Chiang Chen-yu (江振猷) and Ho Keng-tse (何鏗澤) -- by awarding "certificates of restored reputation" to their sons and daughters to redress the state's wrongs.

Also at Wednesday's ceremony, 228 Memorial Foundation Chairman Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元) said his foundation has tried to help the families of potential 228 Incident victims file for government compensation by validating their claims.

The opening of sealed files has provided the foundation the proof needed to help families applying for compensation confirm that their relatives were in fact victims of the 228 Incident, Hsueh said, with the families of over 4,000 victims helped to date.

"We continue to seek the truth about the incident, not only for the sake of the victims and their families but for the future. After making sure who should be responsible for the tragedy, we can all move on to create a future together," he said.

The foundation also completed translations of the English version and Japanese version of "The Tragedy of 228: Historical Truth and Transitional Justice in Taiwan," according to Hsueh.

The publication of English and Japanese versions of the book is expected to allow non-Mandarin readers to better understand the history of Taiwan, he added.

Tsai's appearance at the annual ceremony was her last as president. She is nearing the end of her second and final four-year term that will officially conclude on May 20 when her deputy, Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德), takes her place after winning the presidential election in January.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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