Recognized on February 28th, the 228 Memorial Day is a time of reflecting on a tragic event and a hope for Peace in all our lives.
In 1947, Taiwan was an island in turmoil. After many years post the Sino-Japanese War, the island and people had been controlled by Japan. Under the Japanese rule, the Taiwanese were brought up with many Japanese ideals. Some good, some bad. But after the decline of the Japanese Empire at the end of World War II, the island reverted back to Chinese jurisdiction. These created a divide among the Taiwanese people, those who longed to return to their Chinese roots and those who had grown up knowing nothing but Japanese philosophies and the hatred for China.
Under the Japanese rule, the government had a near monopoly over certain trade. When Chen Yi took over Taiwan after the Japanese surrender, he expanded that monopoly and took over many factories, mines, and homes. This tight control resembling the prohibition that occurred in the United States, and thus many black markets for materials began to spring up.
On February 27th 1947, the tragic events were set into motion when the police confiscated black market cigarettes from an elderly Taiwanese woman. A mob gathered around the woman and officers and a shot was fired, killing one of the onlookers. The next morning, violence erupted throughout Taiwan and rebels took over much of the land.
Since the only distinction between which side you were on was where your alliances fell, with the Japanese or the Chinese rule, it became difficult to tell a friend from an enemy. There is no actual account of how many, but it is believed that tens of thousands were killed by both sides of the conflict during the weeks to follow. The highest counts are up around the 30,000, lowest are 10,000.
It wasn't until many months later, the end of May, that the ramifications of this incident were finally declared at an end. The records on this even were sealed and prohibited by law to be discussed publicly. The period of time would be known as the "White Terror", where the government ruled with tight control and censorship. Almost a whole generation passed before in the 1970's several citizens' groups asked for this law to be reverted and a remembrance of this incident be recognized.
In 1992, an official report came out detailing the event that occurred. The name "228 Memorial" came from the fact that the report was entitled "February 28 Incident Research Report". A formal apology by the government was made in 1995 and the day, February 28, was declared a holiday. Memorials were erected around Taiwan for the event, including out that sits near the President's Office in Taipei. A silent spike into the sky to remind us of the violence of that day.
In 2004, Taiwanese formed a large human chain in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally to commemorate the event and call for Peace. The chain extended from the Northernmost city to the Southern tip of the island. There some that were angered by the fact some political parties used this as a platform to further their own agendas. Nevertheless, the gesture made an impact to the Taiwanese people worldwide.
A year later, in 2005, this holiday is recognized in more private manners. Many attended special showings of images from that event at museums and through the media. Many who lost family during this tragic event remember in their own ways how it has changed their lives.
228 Memorial Day is a call, not only for the Taiwanese people, but for the people of the world to seek peace and not like these types of massacres happen again.