Chiang didn’t order ‘Feb. 28 Massacre’

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The China Post staff

Chiang Kai-shek may be ultimately responsible for the massacre following the riots of February 28, 1947, but certainly isn’t the chief culprit — as seven historians claim he is.

In a special report, commissioned by the February 28 Memorial Foundation, the historians point out Chiang was chairman of the National Government of the Republic of China in 1947 and decided to dispatch an infantry division to Taiwan to enforce martial law.

The report, published with great fanfare yesterday, charges Chiang, who the historians say knew the situation in Taiwan full well, with complying with the request for suppression by General Chen Yi, administrator-general of the province of Taiwan in 1947.

“Without his (Chiang’s) support,” the report points out, “General Chen didn’t dare ignore the will of the people (who demanded autonomy).”

With Chiang’s tacit agreement, no government troops would have dared arrest and execute people without trial, the report adds. After the incident, no military and government officials were punished. Some of them, including Peng Meng-chi who killed hundreds of people in Kaohsiung, were promoted.

Peng was made chief of the general staff in the end.

All this, the report concludes, points to Chiang Kai-shek as the chief culprit — with the full agreement of President Chen Shui-bian, who said just as much in an address at a meeting marking its publication.

As chief of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Chiang is ultimately responsible for whatever the troops he decided to send to Taiwan had done to “pacify” the rebelling island province.

The accusation by the seven historians, however, is unfair. They do not have documentation to indict Chiang for a crime he did not commit.

On the other hand, there is full documentation of what Chiang did in Nanjing after the riots occurred in Taiwan, one day after an on-looker was shot to death by accident in Taipei by a Taiwan Tobacco and Monopoly Bureau agent trying to arrest a street vendor of smuggled cigarettes on February 27.

After the incident, Chiang met with U.S. Ambassador in Nanjing John Leighton Stuart and professed he was unaware of conditions in Taiwan, according to the files declassified by the State Department.

Chiang relied on the findings of Pai Chung-hsi’s investigation mission. Pai, then minister of national defense, exonerated General Chen Yi.

Ambassador Stuart was asked to provide an independent report.

Stuart ordered the U.S. consul in Taipei to write that independent report, which was given Chiang and kept on the State Department file.

In that report, the American consul placed the blame on Chen Yi, who secretly requested reinforcements from China but openly promised not to make that request.

After the Stuart report was provided, Chen, who took over Taiwan from Japan after the end of the Second World War, was replaced by Dr. Wei Tao-ming, Chinese ambassador in Washington.

Wei was made governor, not the administrator general, and his new administration was made a provincial government on a par with all its counterparts in China.

That was the demand of the people of Taiwan who had protested the inefficient provincial administration by General Chen Yi.

Appointed governor of Chekiang, General Chen was later arrested for treason. He tried to surrender to Mao Zedong. Brought to Taipei from Shanghai, Chen was executed on June 18, 1950.

Another accusation the historians have made is against Sydney Yeh, the Taiwan bureau chief of the Central News Agency in 1947.

Though Yeh was not named, the special report says without documentation that the CNA correspondent in Taipei recommended to Chiang that troops be sent to Taiwan to suppress the riots.

It is true that the CNA, before it was moved from Nanjing to Taipei in 1950, had been a channel of information for Chiang, who had it founded under control of the Kuomintang in 1924.

Yeh was the first and the only CNA Taiwan bureau chief, who covered the incident in person.

His dispatches from Taipei might not fully report what was actually going on in Taiwan, but there is no proof that he actually made the recommendation.

He did not. Even if he had, Chiang wouldn’t have complied.

The fact is that Chen made the request for reinforcements to keep Taiwan under control. Any commander-in-chief would make a similar decision to keep the house in order.

In fact, Chiang had picked Chen, a Japanese military academy graduate who visited Taiwan as a special guest of Koo Hsien-yung, father of the late C.F. Koo, during the 40th anniversary celebration of Japan’s colonization in 1935, in the belief that the general would make the island a model province of all China.

C. F. Koo, who died early last year, was the chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, a semi-government agency in charge of conducting “unofficial” relations between Taiwan and China.