New report on 228 Incident published in pursuit of transitional justice

Photo courtesy of CNA

TAIPEI (CNA) — A new report on the 228 Incident, a civil uprising that took place 73 years ago and led to a bloody government crackdown, was officially published Sunday to serve as a reference for the government’s pursuit of transitional justice.

“The Draft Report on the Truth of the 228 Incident and Transitional Justice,” written by 10 Taiwanese historians and scholars, was published in two volumes totaling more than 1,260 pages.

“The publication of the draft report will comfort the souls of the 228 incident victims,” said Yang Cui (楊翠), acting chairperson of the Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) during a ceremony to mark the publication held at the National 228 Memorial Museum.

The significance of the draft report is that it will allow the country to face the past with sincerity and move forward, as many family members and descendants of the victims are still alive, she added.

The latest publication from the Memorial Foundation of 228 took two years to complete and built on two earlier reports — the investigation report released by Taiwan’s Executive Yuan in 1992 and a study on the accountability of perpetrators released by the foundation in 2006.

“The draft report incorporates the latest historical materials we gathered, including government documents that have been declassified over the past two years,” Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元), chairman of the Memorial Foundation of 228, said at the event.

The role of the government intelligence agencies, the deployment of government troops in quelling the uprising and the casualties including individuals from mainland China, are some of the rarely touched on issues addressed in the draft report, he said.

Hsueh explained that the report is considered a “draft report” because this is not the final report on the 228 Incident as there are more historical truths to be discovered.

Although the general picture of the 228 Incident has been defined, researchers are still working on details such as how and where some victims were executed, he said.

The draft report will be submitted to the TJC as a reference for its work pursuing the truth behind state-sanctioned violence during the authoritarian period and in vindicating victims who were designated rioters, rebels or communist sympathizers at that time, according to Hsueh.

The 228 Incident was triggered by a clash between six inspectors from the Provincial Monopoly Bureau and an elderly female cigarette vendor in Taipei on Feb. 27, 1947.

The inspectors pistol-whipped the vendor as they tried to confiscate her smuggled cigarettes. A bystander was shot dead by one of the officials as an angry crowd gathered, leading to violent clashes between security forces and civilians over the days and weeks that followed.

There are different estimates as to the number of casualties during the 228 Incident. According to the 1992 Executive Yuan investigation report, 18,000-28,000 people were killed during the subsequent government crackdown, which lasted into early May 1947.