228 also known as the February 28 Massacre occurred in 1947 where the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) led government of the Republic of China (ROC) violently suppressed an anti government uprising in Taiwan.
Background: What was causing the tension leading up to 228?
- From 1895 to 1945 Taiwan was ruled by Japan. Japan developed a lot of the infrastructure in Taiwan as well as built up its economy raising the standard of living for most Taiwanese people which is why the Taiwanese had more favorable perceptions of the Japanese compared to elsewhere in Asia at the time.
- At the end of World War 2 in 1945, following the victory of the Allied forces, Japan surrendered Taiwan to the General Chiang Kai-Shek (leader of ROC) through General Order No.1, and placed it under ROC governance.
- The KMT Governor-General Chen Yi took over Japan’s system of state monopolies for a lot of different crops and commodities. He then used his influence in these monopolies to sell and ship cheaper goods back to Mainland China to meet the Civil War shortages.
- The Taiwanese were granted opportunities (by the Japanese) to govern themselves under the Japanese rule however after WW II people from ROC government in Mainland China were put in place for offices in government
- ROC troops were undisciplined and were looting, stealing and breaking down the infrastructure that the Japanese had built.
- On the night of Feb 27th, 1947 a Tobacco Monopoly Bureau enforcement team in Taipei confiscated contraband cigarettes from a 40-year-old woman at a tea house.
- She asked for them to be returned, however one of the team members hit her in the head with a pistol, causing the surrounding Taiwanese crowd to confront the Tobacco Monopoly team
- As the team fled, one agent shot his gun into the crowd killing a bystander.
- Feeling the frustration from the unemployment rate, inflation and corruption of the Nationalist government, the crowd protested to the police but was ignored.
- On the morning of Feb 28th, 1947 violence broke out when the security at Governor-General Chen Yi’s office tried to disperse the crowd.
- The security fired at the protesters who were calling for the arrest and trial of the agents involved in the previous day’s shootings resulting in
- This caused an open rebellion that lasted for several weeks and resulted tens of thousands of deaths
- Martial law was also declared and curfews were enforced on this day, marking the beginning of the White Terror.
- Local leaders formed a Settlement Committee which presented the ROC government with a list of 32 Demands for reform of the provincial administrations.
- They demanded greater autonomy, free elections and an end to government corruption.
- On March 8th, 1947 the ROC troops led by Chen Yi launched a crackdown on the rebels throughout Taiwan.
- By the end of March, Chen Yi had ordered the imprisonment or execution of the Taiwanese organizers he could identify and executed somewhere between 3,000 to 4,000 people throughout the island.
Why isn’t this a well known event in history?
Upon lifting the martial law in 1987, government records of the incident were classed as top secret and it was considered taboo to speak about the event.
The event went unacknowledged for 48 years until 1995 when President Lee Teng-Hui, a victim of 228, issued a formal apology on behalf of the government and declared February 28th as a holiday dedicated to the victims.
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