Four days from now it will be February 28th, 2000. Fifty-three years ago, in 1947, the infamous "2-28 Incident" began as a street riot and ended with the death of thousands. With the ROCís presidential elections scheduled for March 18, a mere two weeks later, you can bet your life the Taiwan separatist elite is going to milk the tragic occasion for all itís worth.
The only problem is, the Taiwan separatist elite is going to be milking the wrong date.
What am I talking about? Read on.
Former political prisoner Li Ao, Taiwanís foremost scholar and historian, hosts two nightly political talk shows on cable TV. A few years ago Li, a cross between Vaclav Havel and Rush Limbaugh, published a history of the 2-28 Incident, entitled "The 2-28 You Donít Know," in which he turns the conventional wisdom surrounding the tragedy upside down, or more accurately, rightside up.
During Chiang Kai-shekís White Terror Li was a guest of Taiwanís "Club Fed" for eight years. He was imprisoned for "subversive activities," i.e., authoring or publishing op-ed pieces denouncing the late Generalissimo as a dictator.
Li spent his time in prison reading voluminously, and became a walking encyclopedia of Chinese history, including the history of post WWII Taiwan.
One of the charges leveled against Li was "fomenting Taiwan independence." The charge was utterly ludicrous. Li has never harbored anything but undisguised contempt for both the Taiwan "independence" leadership and its ideology.
Li however has always harbored a deep and abiding respect for untrammeled freedom of expression. While the current crop of opportunistic, Radical Chic Taiwan separatists were hiding out in America, safe from Chiangís White Terror, the iconoclastic Li stubbornly remained in Taiwan and fought tooth and nail for the release of political prisoners, including former DPP Chairman Shih Ming-teh, former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsing-liang, and former DPP Taipei Mayor Chen Sui-bian.
Even militant Taiwan separatists dare not treat Li AO with anything but respect and deference. They owe him, big time, and they know it.
No, the opinionated, obnoxious, egotistical Li AO cannot be dismissed as an apologist for the Chiang Kai-shek/Chiang Ching-kuo controlled KMT, much less a "holocaust denier."
Currently three of the four former political prisoners: Li AO, Hsu Hsing-liang, and Chen Shui-bian, are candidates for president of the Republic of China.
Chen Shui-bian is the separatist DPPís candidate. Chen now pays hypocritical lip service to reunification in public in order to deceive moderate voters whom he desperately needs to win. Meanwhile, away from the attention of the international media, surrounded by rabid Taiwan independence crowds, he shouts "Long live Taiwan independence!"
Former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsing-liang, who once colluded with KMT Chairman Lee Teng-hui to eliminate the Taiwan Provincial Government, in flagrant violation of the ROC Constitution, has since undergone a genuine "Road to Damascus" conversion. Hsu now denounces Chen Shui-bianís obsession with Taiwanese separatism as a menace to Taiwanís economic future and East Asian regional peace and stability.
Li AO is the reformist and pro-reunification New Partyís candidate. Li and the New Party have long advocated a wide range of eminently sensible and far-sighted cross-Straits policies, which the rival political parties on Taiwan have only recently come to realize they must endorse, however reluctantly. Li and the New Partyís thanks for being ahead of the curve? Kneejerk demonization as "traitors to Taiwan."
Liís book, available in Chinese only, is entitled The 2-28 You Donít Know. In it he supplies critical key missing pieces of "lost" history concerning the 2-28 Incident which DPP propagandists and Taiwan independence websites conveniently forget to mention.
Li AO reveals that the 2-28 Incident is a misnomer. The militant separatists who want to play up Ming Nan Taiwanese victimization are playing up the wrong date, and hence the wrong name for the incident.
Chen Shui-bian, former DPP Mayor of Taipei, upon assuming office promptly declared that henceforce February 28 would be known as "2-28 Memorial Day" and played up the victimization of "Taiwanese" with a "2-28 Memorial Museum" and "2-28 Monument" in a "2-28 Memorial Park."
The Taiwan separatist elite alleges that 10,000, 20,000 or even 30,000 "Taiwanese" died at the hands of Chiang Kai-shekís KMT troops. Well, Li AO asks some rather pointed questions about this factoid surrounding 2-28.
An event termed the "2-28 Incident" most certainly did happen. During this 2-28 Incident thousands of innocent people most certainly were murdered.
The problem is that the 2-28 Incident should be commemorated NOT by the Taiwan independence victimologists, but by the surviving family members of "mainlanders." Mainlanders, not "Taiwanese" were the primary victims of the 2-28 Incident.
"Taiwanese," so-called, were the main victims of a SUBSEQUENT incident which began on March 3, and which ought to be termed, but is not, the "3-03 Incident." Thatís when mainland troop reinforcements from Fujian arrived to suppress the rioting and began a My Lai/Tienanmen style massacre of rioters.
Between February 28 and March 3, 1947, Taiwanese separatists, including fanatical diehards of Japanese descent who resented giving back Taiwan to China, went on a rampage murdering "mainland" Chinese. The mindset of these Japanese diehards was remarkably similar to that of fanatical holdouts discovered decades later holed up in dark caves on remote South Pacific islands.
What touched off this massacre was an attempt on February 27 by a "mainlander" policeman to confiscate black market cigarettes from a elderly "Taiwanese" woman street vendor in Taipei, who resisted. The policeman and the woman scuffled, and an indignant crowd gathered. The crowd surrounded the policeman and threatened to overpower him. He pulled out his handgun and fired a warning shot into the air to force them to back off. The shot went wild, accidentally killing a curiosity seeker who had emerged from a neighboring house to see what the commotion was about. Contrary to usual tellings of the story the woman was not the person shot.
The crowd quickly turned into a mob, chased the officer to his precinct station and surrounded it. They demanded the precinct captain hand him over to be lynched on the spot. The captain refused.
In yet another bitter irony, the cigarette and liquor taxes which played such a central role in sparking the riots, were an unrepealed vestige of Japanese colonial rule. China traditionally never had government restrictions on either the private manufacture of tobacco products or alcoholic beverages. For thousands of years it has been completely legal for private citizens in China to make their own "homebrew" or "moonshine."
Prior to this, mutual resentment had simmered for two years, somewhat akin to the undercurrent of animosity between Korean merchants and African-American store customers in Los Angeles. The February 27 altercation was all it took to ignite the fuse. For four straight days angry Taiwanese rioters ran berserk through the streets of Taiwanís major metropolitan areas, somewhat akin to the way rioters ran berserk through South Central L.A. following the Rodney King verdict.
Like the LA rioters who dragged truck driver Reginald Denny from his vehicle and smashed him over the head with bricks merely because he was white, Taiwanese separatists accosted anyone on the street who couldnít speak Japanese and was, ipso facto, considered a "mainlander." They murdered them and threw their bodies into the then ubiquitous drainage ditches.
Some ultramilitant Taiwanese Quislings and Japanese diehards even donned occupation era Japanese uniforms, samurai swords, and wafted Japanese battle flags with sunray designs through the streets, while rounding up mainlanders to be slaughtered.
Decent Taiwan Chinese who chose their friends on the basis of personal affinities (the "content of their character") and not primitive tribal affiliations, hid mainlander friends and neighbors in their closets, the way sympathetic Gentiles hid Ann Frank and her family from Nazi house to house sweeps, and Oskar Schindler saved the lives of Jews assigned to his factories.
Following Japanís unconditional surrender, Koreans wreaked perfectly understandable vengeance against their former Japanese overlords, thousands of whom were killed by angry mobs who had lost loved ones during Japanís brutal occupation of the Korean peninsula.
Meanwhile Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, in a gesture of extravagant and in retrospect, ill-considered magnanimity, forgave defeated Japan for all her war crimes. Former Japanese colonial occupiers on Taiwan were given a choice. Be repatriated to Japan, or stay on Taiwan, only as immigrants. The choice was theirs. Either way, they would remain unmolested.
Some Japanese chose to return to Japan. Some chose to stay on in Taiwan. Among those who chose to stay, many Japanese, instead of being grateful, turned to fomenting Taiwan independence.
When mainland troops finally arrived on March 3rd to quell the riots and saw what was going on they were apoplectic. They had just endured a war of naked Japanese aggression during which fascist Japan had slaughtered 30 million Chinese, including 300,000 civilians in a single prolonged incident, the infamous Rape of Nanking.
To now be confronted with the sight of Chinese Quislings and Japanese Fifth Columnists brazenly flaunting Japanese uniforms while murdering fellow Chinese was too much to take. Some of them reportedly opened fire with machine guns "My Lai/Tienanmen style," on sight, on every suspected Quisling they encountered. Some shooting victims may even have been mainlanders. Chaos was complete.
The ROC Bureau of Justice has been actively soliciting surviving family members to come forward and claim wrongful death compensation for the last decade or so. Just over two thousand families have applied for and received compensation. So where are the tens of thousands of casualties routinely cited? Some militant Taiwan separatists allege that the low number, by several orders of magnitude, merely mean that survivors are terrified of reprisals.
Reprisals? From Taiwan separatist President Lee Teng-hui, who considers himself Japanese? Spare me.
An alternative, darker, more plausible explanation, one considerably less palatable to Taiwanese separatist victimologists suggests itself to Li AO and former Justice Minister Ma Ying-jeou. Namely that the remaining alleged 8,000, or 18,000, or 28,000 victims were mainlanders, many of whom were unmarried laborers from Fujian, without relatives in Taiwan. Once their corpses were dumped into the Tamsui River and floated out into the Taiwan Straits that was the end of it. Family members on the mainland assumed they died in the "fog of war" against Japan.
Number inflation may well be a double-edged sword.
If that is indeed the case, for manipulative Taiwan separatist demagogues like Chen Shui-bian to add mainlander victims to the column labeled "Taiwanese" victims is insult added to injury.
If Chen Shui-bian, known to his acolytes as "A-Bian," had any intellectual integrity whatsoever, he would publicly acknowledge his historical ignorance, innocent or otherwise, and make correct his mistake.
Chen can do any of the following.
One. He can retain the names "2-28 Memorial Day," "2-28 Memorial Museum," "2-28 Monument," and "2-28 Memorial Park," but reverse the role of victim and victimizer. If you believe Chen Shui-bian would do this, I have some land in the Everglades Iíd like to interest you in.
Two. He can change the names of "2-28 Memorial Day," "2-28 Memorial Museum, " "2-28 Monument," and "2-28 Memorial Park" to "3-03 Memorial Day," "3-03 Memorial Museum," "3-03 Monument," and "3-03 Memorial Park."
What do you imagine the odds of this are? After all, this would require Chen to concede not simply that he had gotten a date wrong, but again, that his smug "Good versus Evil" dichotomy was inverted. I wouldnít want to hang by a rope while Chen considered this option.
Three. He can keep doing what heís been doing. Continue to foment ugly hatred against all "mainlanders." Pretend that "mainlander" Li AO, who visited Chen in prison and brought him books to read, never exposed the 2-28 Incident for what it was, a Joseph Goebbels "Big Lie."
As 2-28, 2000 approaches, we shall see soon enough whether Chen and the Taiwan separatist elite take the high road, or the low road.
Iím betting on the latter. Any takers?
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