Politicians cashing in every year on the 2-28 tragedy

The China Post

The tragic incident that occurred on Feb. 28, 1947 has become a political gold mine for those who want to exploit this tragedy for political gains. Each year around this time, when politicians needed political capital, “2-28” has always been there to help. Now, 60 years after the incident, triggered by the shooting of a vendor by police that sparked island-wide riots in which thousands of innocent people were killed, the ghost of the incident has not been exorcised. This week, President Chen Shui-bian pointed an accusing finger at Chiang Kai-shek, hinting that the late Nationalist leader could be the “prime mastermind” of 2-28. The accusation came at a time when the Chen Shui-bian administration is trying to erase every last vestige of Chiang from Taiwan, including his statues and pictures, even the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. The Chiang Kai-shek International Airport at Taoyuan has already been renamed. To accuse Chiang, who at the time was chairman of the Nationalist government in Nanking and head of the Military Commission, is apocryphal because at that time Chiang was waging a full-scale civil war with the Chinese communists. He had his hands full and could not have had time to handle the riot in a far-flung island. Chiang’s grand-daughter-in-law, Mrs. Chiang Hsiao-yung, rebutted Chen’s accusation by showing the late President’s diary on March 7, 1947, in which he wrote: “…the death toll reached several hundred. Chen Kung-hsia (former Taiwan governor, a.k.a. Chen Yi) did not try to prevent the incident beforehand, and submitted inaccurate reports afterward, leading to a conflagration.” Yes, Chiang Kai-shek was accountable for the incident because he was head of state of the Republic of China and the top military commander of the Nationalist (Kuomintang, KMT) government, but that does not make him the “prime mastermind” of 2-28. The question is: why the accusation from President Chen? The reason is not hard to find. To drive a wedge into the already divided population of mainlanders and native Taiwanese has always worked wonders for separatist politicians. For Chen and his comrades, only a divided house can stand. President Chen has said that there won’t be reconciliation without the truth of 2-28. It is bewildering to the general public why Taiwan, seven years after the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party came to power, is unable to get the “truth” on 2-28. What kind of truths are Chen and his party are seeking? Do they want historical facts, or a distorted version of such facts that are “politically correct?”

Every year, when this country marks 2-28, rhetoric inciting ethnic hatred and hostility flares. The incident has increasingly polarized this island politically. It has divided the island’s 23 million residents into two hostile groups, the mainlander minority and the Taiwanese majority, not unlike Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites. While 2-28 is a tragedy, a greater tragedy is that many of Taiwan’s politicians are determined to cash in on the tragedy six decades ago. A divided house won’t stand for long. Taiwan is seriously divided, thanks to the efforts of many politicians who have vested interests in a divided house. The past seven years has made the house rickety. To fan the flame of racial hostility, instead of promoting ethnical harmony, is dangerous and irresponsible on the part of politicians. It’s time to exorcise the spirit of 2-28. When Lee Teng-hui assumed power as the first native-born president of the Republic of China in 1988 after the death of President Chiang Ching-kuo, he urged Taiwan’s citizens to “look forward” and leave 2-28 behind. Lee had done everything to lay the incident to rest, by compensating the families of 2-28 victims, building memorials, and offering an official apology. Lee, often called the “godfather” of Taiwan independence, did the right thing to heal the wounds of 2-28. But the wounds have been reopened since the regime change in 2000. Lee’s “looking forward” policy has been replaced by “looking backward” by his successor. Chen’s approach to 2-28, while earning him a second term, is not without a price: a split society, a stagnant economy, and a marginalized international status.