The Taiwan 228 Incident

Although it is not a “traditional” holiday, the 228 Incident (sometimes known as the “228 Massacre”) has been a recognized Taiwan national holiday since 1995.

 

The incident started as an anti-government uprising on February 27, 1947. The KMT (Kuomingtang) was the leading party at the time. As the anti-government activity appeared to become more volatile, the KMT oppressed the uprising which resulted in 10,000-30,000 deaths as well as thousands of missing persons. For more than 50 years, this event was considered an unpatriotic taboo topic for Taiwanese and government officials. It wasn’t until the first democratically elected, and Taiwan born, president, Lee Deng-hui (李登煇)mentioned the incident in a speech to commemorate the day. At this time, the Taiwanese government stated that 2/28 would be a national holiday to remember those who lost their lives.

 

The catalyst of the 228 Incident was a cigarette seller who was visited by a Tobacco Monopoly Bureau enforcement team in Taipei. At this time, after the end of Japanese rule and return of power to the KMT, there was rampant corruption, inflation, and economic mismanagement of most staple goods including tobacco, sugar, tea, and cement. As the civil war in China raged on, many with connections hoarded and exported any goods they could find usually at a steep profit. This led to a big black market in Taiwan, food shortages, and a general frustration among the general populace.

 

When the government showed up to confiscate and fine the elderly cigarette seller, surnamed Lin, the neighborhood came out in force to protest and release their frustrations. A shot was fired and an innocent bystander was killed. From that day on, word spread and the uprising began. For several weeks, the local Taiwanese population slowly took over control of the government and the island. The KMT dispatched a squadron of troops from Mainland China. The soldiers arrived on March 8 and went on a three day killing spree. Everything from abductions to executions occurred as the KMT was determined to regain power.

 

Today, many elderly Taiwanese still harbor anger over the 228 incident and have a large distrust of the KMT. However, many movies, books, and songs have been made about the incident and it has become an open topic. In addition, the Taipei New Park, was renamed as the 228 Peace Memorial Park in 1996.

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