TAIPEI–The 228 Incident was a massacre in which over 10,000 civilians lost their lives, a group of scholars said Saturday, citing statistics from various sources to refute a recent claim by a former premier that fewer people had been killed.
A denial of the number of fatalities results from a fear to examine history, said Lee Hsiao-feng, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Culture at National Taipei University of Education, a leading researcher on the tragic event.
Lee was referring to a letter sent by former Premier Hau Pei-tsun, a general-turned-politician, to the Chinese-language United Daily News on Feb. 21. In the letter, he questioned a chapter in a textbook that said “over 10,000 were killed.”
“Based on what are they giving such an account?” Hau asked. There has yet to be a precise account of the number of deaths, but we can come up with a rough estimate,” argued Lee, presenting official records, news articles and witness’ testimonies at a press conference attended by victim families. Most historical evidence showed that at least 10,000 Taiwanese were killed during the anti-government uprising in 1947, which resulted from conflicts with the Kuomintang’s troops from China that took over the island after Japan surrendered in World War II, he said.
The tragic event also marked the beginning of Taiwan’s White Terror period that saw thousands of locals arrested, imprisoned and executed.
Supporting Lee’s view on the death toll, Chen Yi-shen, a researcher from Academia Sinica’s Institute of Modern History, said that although only around 800 victims’ families have applied for government compensation over the years, reports commissioned by the government pointed to a death scale at around 13,000.
“The 228 Incident is definitely a massacre,” said a member of a victim’s family to a grey-haired audience who came to the venue despite heavy rain.
He added that he has yet to see evidence of the government’s sincerity to unveil the truth behind the brutal killing.