Taiwanese history teaches a lesson in peace

By Meylysa

In honor of one of my ancestral homelands, I’d like to bring focus your attention on Taiwan. Though a small, little island off the coast of Asia, it is the 14th largest economic power in the world. Though the most recent news you may have heard would include dirty campaign funding to Clinton and the recent threats China made against it, there is a lot more to this little island nation.
I would like to reveal a piece of history that has shaped the lives of many Taiwanese and Taiwanese Americans. Fifty years ago, Feb. 28, 1947, a historic event in Taiwanese history took place that is now bitterly referred to as the 2-28 incident.
My father told me one must know about 2-28 in order to understand the sentiment of the Taiwanese in Formosa (Taiwan) during that time.
First, a brief historical note. The Chinese, under Chiang Kai Shek, occupied Taiwan after losing to Mao Tse Tung during the Communist Revolution. General Chen Yi, Chiang Kai Shek’s appointed governor of Taiwan, created a government monopoly in 1947 on cigarette peddling.
A Taiwanese woman selling cigarettes on the evening of Feb. 27 was stopped by the police. They seized her cigarettes and money and pistol-whipped her when she resisted. They then fired upon the gathering crowd, killing one onlooker.
In response to the incident, the Taiwanese revolted and began attacking recent immigrant mainlanders and Kuomintang soldiers. After taking control of the government, they filed their grievances in the form of a Settlement Committee with Chen. Chen asked for a wider forum of Taiwanese activists to better understand the issues and gathered the names of all activists present.
The Settlement Committee presented their reform plan on March 7 to Chen. They demanded autonomous provincial government with two-thirds of the Cabinet to be composed of people resident on Taiwan for at least 10 years, and they also insisted on basic political and civil rights.
The next day, when 50,000 Chinese soldiers returned to the island, all Taiwanese dissidents were murdered.
“The administration proceeded to track down people on its lists of dissidents, killing journalists, doctors, lawyers and businessmen. Troops systematically wiped out an entire generation of the Taiwanese elite and also killed many ordinary urban and rural people at random (Cohen, ‘Taiwan at the Crossroads,’ p. 12).”
Over a period of several months, an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people were beheaded, shot or found missing. Typical procedure was to rob a house and kill all of the men. Bodies are still being discovered today.
It is at this time of year that I reflect on the many countries suffering from wars for independence and also the many histories that I do not know about.
I have come to appreciate the human spirit and the lives of those who died for their ideals. It was only last year that Taiwan had its first democratic election.
Although the world seems to pass at a quick pace, it is important to remember how much more we have to appreciate living in the United States.

This column originally ran in the Friday, March 7 issue of The Dartmouth, Dartmouth College’s student newspaper.