Area 1｜Incident Background
Japan surrendered at the end of WWII in 1945. Taiwan had experienced 50 years of colonial rule, and was finally able to have the opportunity to rid itself of second-class citizen status. The Taiwanese rejoiced and welcomed the Motherland. You can see in the photo on the left people were waving flags and enthusiastically welcoming the Nationalist Government; you can also see in the photo on the right the Japanese returning to their homeland. The Taiwanese had just gone through a very intense cultural change and regime replacement.
In 1946, after Japanese colonial rule, the Taiwanese were eager to be politically involved, and were enthusiastic about participating in the elections, hoping to build a new Taiwan. Something worth mentioning here is that, on May 1, 1945, the Taiwan Provincial Senate was officially established. The chamber was located on the second floor of this building. Many of the provincial senators who advocated democratic reform were killed during the 228 Incident, so much of Taiwan's elite was destroyed by the government's violence. This was also a major reason for this building being designated as the National 228 Memorial Museum.
After governing Taiwan for one year, the Chen Yi administration announced the abolishment of Japanese newspapers. As a result, many Taiwanese people who went through 50 years of Japanese rule became either illiterate or semiliterate for they have never learned to read and write Chinese. Compared to the language policy of the abolishment of Chinese newspapers of the Japanese Government, which began after 34 years of its colonizing in Taiwan, this language policy was evidently harsher.
Those Taiwanese, who experienced the 228 Incident, also experienced two eras. The violence of two political regimes had been imposed upon them. The Taiwanese people had experienced the “Tennoization”（ kōminka 皇民化） during WWII, and the Japanese government attempted to get rid of the Chinese cultural influences from the Taiwanese in order to prevent the Taiwanese from leaning towards China on the battlefield. However, once the war was over and Taiwan returned to its Motherland, the Nationalist Government viewed the Japanese influences in the Taiwanese as being “enslaved”, and, therefore, was determined to purge the Japanese cultural elements from the Taiwanese people.
The Taiwanese looked forward to running their own nation. However, there was only one Taiwanese person amongst the top officials in the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office and only three Taiwanese represented amongst the city and county mayors at the time. Clearly, the Taiwanese were still excluded from the circles of political power. Consequently, after the promulgation of the constitution on January 1, 1947, Taiwanese political elites strongly advocated the direct election of county and city mayors! They were hoping to use the elections to bring an end to the government corruption and the monopoly of political power. The demand for direct elections became an important theme for political reform.
After the war, incidents of government corruption were rampant, and the people referred to the Nationalist Government's “take-over” of Taiwan as “plundering” Taiwan, which underlined the seriousness of government corruption. On the economy, Chen Yi continued the monopoly system instated by the Japanese, competing with the people for profit; he also set up a Trade Bureau to control imports and exports. This was a far cry from the people's expectations of free trade after the war. The corrupt officials colluded with local businessmen to profit from unfair trade practices, causing the price of rice to skyrocket and a rice shortage crisis in a rice producing country. The people were starving and the entire society was filled with an atmosphere that a storm was approaching.
The killing of a citizen as a result of confiscating contraband cigarettes on February 27, 1947 further enflamed the 228 Incident, which eventually spread across the entire island. As a result, the brewing discontentment with the Chen Yi administration erupted into a force that became the motivation behind the people's demand for political reform.
Area 2｜Outbreak of the 228 Incident
In the evening of February 27, 1947, in the bustling nightlife of Dadaocheng 大稻埕 (an area in the current Datong District of Taipei City), a citizen was killed as a result of confiscating contraband cigarettes. On February 28, the people went to the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office to plead the case for the contraband cigarette murder but were met with open fire, and the guns sounded off once again, killing more innocent people. This ignited anger in the people, which erupted into an all-out demonstration against the government.
The military police were trigger-happy; the police opening fire during the 228 Incident which was not the first time. The use of weapons by police was a situation that the people dealt with regularly. The people were extremely dissatisfied with the police breaking the law and their action being undisciplined. The second problem was that ordinary citizens were having a hard time making a living, government corruption was at epidemic proportions and both the Monopoly and Trade Bureaus were involved in corruption scandals, further angering the people. This was also why the police stations and Monopoly Bureaus everywhere became the targets for the demonstrations and protests by the people, after the outbreak of the 228 Incident.
In the morning of February 28th, the victims' family members, along with a sympathetic crowd, took to the streets knocking gongs, calling on others to join in on getting justice for the victims. The protestors reached the Taipei branch of the Monopoly Bureau where the shooting occurred. Ignited by repressed anger with the killing over confiscated cigarettes, they charged in and took contraband alcohol, cigarettes, and matches, and then burned them in the street. In an instant there was a huge fire and an ever-growing crowd of on-lookers.
Receiving no response from the officials, the crowd turned toward the main branch of the Monopoly Bureau to continue their protest. At this time, the military police had blocked the entrance, firing off warning shots at the crowd.
Another group of protesters proceeded toward the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office (the present-day Executive Yuan), requesting justice. By the time they reached the main gate, soldiers on the second floor balcony had already opened fire. When the guns sounded off again, more people were killed and injured. This further angered the crowd and the situation rapidly spiraled out of control. At this point, a group of people entered the nearby Taiwan Radio Station (the present-day Taipei 228 Memorial Museum), which was powerless to stop them from spreading the word all over Taiwan.
In the streets, some mainlanders were beaten; the regular and military police entered the city and opened fire at the protesting crowd. Governor-General Chen Yi then declared martial law in Taipei.
On March 1, people all over Taiwan took part in the 228 Incident and rallied together to fight against the government, demanding the eradication of corrupt government officials.
Area 3｜The Beginning and the End of the Incident
Mr. Wu Hong Qi 吳鴻麒 was a Supreme Court judge. He participated in the prosecution of former Taiwan Governor Rikichi Ando 安藤利吉. After the promulgation of the Constitution on January 1, 1947, he was invited to the radio station to interpret the Constitution for the public. His body was found under the Nangang Bridge 南港橋 after the 228 Incident. His diary revealed the truth about what really happened and what the people experienced during the 228 Incident.
March 2, 1947, Sunday, Rainy
Although martial law has been lifted, the city remains uneasy, and the occasional sounds of gunfire can still be heard. The radio station provides regular updates on the progress of “the 228 Incident Settlement Committee”. With transportation being cut off and the shortage of food, I fear the reoccurrence of another serious situation. If this situation is not resolved soon, I'm worried it will become out of control.
The first part is that the 228 Incident Settlement Committee came forward to “stabilize the situation”. After the outbreak of the Incident, there were occurrences of bloodshed and confrontations everywhere, and many areas were in a state of anarchy. During this time, elected Taiwanese representatives trusted by the people and local leaders joined together to form the “228 Incident Settlement Committee” and came forward to help negotiate conflicts between the government and the people, as well as to propose a plan for political reform.
The primary objective was to solve the food shortage crisis and to stop the military and regular police from opening fire at the people. The Settlement Committee asked the people to remain calm and not to beat up mainlanders and requested the military to return to their barracks and to stop shooting at civilians. It wasn't until around March 4th, that social order was eventually restored everywhere.
The second part is “The Role of Young Students”. During the 228 Incident, young students played an extremely important role. At the request of the Settlement Committee, young students helped maintain public order after the county and city governments, as well as the police, were all gone; they weren't afraid of sacrifice and participated in armed confrontations; they advocated the proposal for democratic reform. Such as the youngsters of Tianzhong Township, Changhua County 彰化縣田中鄉, who proposed a list of 12 demands, made their intentions clear from the outset indicating that if reform did not take place, then the protests and confrontations will continue. They asserted that Taiwan was not a colony and demanded the implementation of the constitution.
On the day of the 228 Incident, due to the protestors entering the radio station announcing the outbreak of the Incident, the news spread quickly across Taiwan. Protests demanding the eradication of corrupt government officials spread across the island. Demonstrations erupted everywhere, causing island-wide disturbances.
The documents situated in the middle contain the demands for political reform that were proposed by various youth and political organizations during the Incident. Amongst them was a telegram sent to Chairman Chiang Kai-Shek from the Provincial Political Development Association via the U.S. Embassy in Nanjing, China, explaining that the Incident was purely an opposition against corrupt government officials and a demand for political reform. The telegram also requested that the Central Government not dispatch any troops to Taiwan. It was clear from this telegram how tense and critical the situation was at the time.
Democratic reform was the focal point of the 228 Incident. The 228 Incident Settlement Committees that were formed everywhere became political reform groups and the request for “direct elections of county and city mayors” became a consistent demand. Governor-General Chen Yi 陳儀, compelled by the situation, announced on the evening of March 6th over the radio that the Governor-General's Office would be transformed into a provincial government with native Taiwanese being appointed as officers, and direct elections would be held for county and city mayors. At that point, democratic reform seemed to have seen the light of day.
However, on March 7th, once Chen Yi confirmed that the troops from the central government were about to arrive in Taiwan, he rejected the “32 Demands” proposed by the Settlement Committee. On March 8th, the Nationalist army arrived at Keelung port and began its military repression. Members of the Settlement Committee everywhere were being captured and killed, causing the disappearance and falling of the first generation of Taiwanese political elites after the war.
Area 4｜Appeasement and the Deployment of Troops (Two-faced approach)
The 228 Incident drew a huge call for reform. At first, the Government led by Chen Yi adopted a strategy of appeasement, agreeing to carry out the promise to hold direct elections of county and city officials, while at the same time, he was requesting the central government to deploy troops to Taiwan. Once the military reinforcements arrived in Taiwan, Chen Yi rejected the reform proposed by the Settlement Committee. The military reinforcements from the Nationalist Government arrived on March 8th, and launched an all-out repression of the Taiwanese people.
The news clippings contained the information the people read in the newspapers that year; the official documents were the classified files that became public only after the democratization of Taiwan. Both the news clippings and official documents contained the actions of the government that year, leaving behind the trace of how the state apparatus implemented a two-faced approach to repress the reformers.
the news clipping on the left shows the formation of a security unit by the Settlement Committee and appointing Hsu Teh-Hui 許德輝as Commander; the official document on the right revealed that Hsu Teh-Hui was actually an undercover agent sent by the intelligence unit. Therefore, on March 2nd, when Chen Yi announced that the Settlement Committee should allow various representatives to join the committee and accommodate public opinion, he had already requested for an intelligence officer to sneak inside the Settlement Committee in order to get a good grasp of the reform leaders' movements, based on what was revealed in the diary of Chief of Staff, Ke Yuan-Fen 柯遠芬.
Next is the order issued by Chairman Chiang Kai-Shek on March 5th, that the troops had been deployed. However, the Taiwanese read in that day's newspapers the Settlement Committees were being set up everywhere and were ready to engage in the political reform promised by Chen Yi.
The next set is on March 6th, Chen Yi announced over the radio that the Governor-General's Office would be transformed into a provincial government with native Taiwanese being appointed as the majority of leaders and direct elections of county and city mayors would be held on July 1. The people believed that these political reforms brought about by the 228 Incident were actually going to be realized. However, on the same day, Kaohsiung Garrison Commander Peng Meng-Chi 彭孟緝 ordered the troops to enter the city, attacked the Kaohsiung City Government, the train station and First Middle School, resulting in major casualties of the City Senators, the negotiators and civilians.
On March 7th, Chen Yi telegraphed every city and county senate, saying, “If you think your mayor is not competent, you can nominate candidates, and we will choose a replacement among these nominees.” On the same day, Chen Yi sent a telegram to Chairman Chiang, requesting additional troops, “One regiment of army is not enough to counter the insurgents. In addition to the 21 divisions, please dispatch one additional division, making it at least a whole brigade of army. ……the insurgents will be eliminated in the shortest amount of time.”
On March 8th, Chang Mu-Tao 張慕陶, leader of the fourth regiment of the military police, stated, “The proposed political reforms are justified,” and “I guarantee with my life that the central government will not dispatch the military to Taiwan.” But at 2 o'clock in that afternoon, the army initiated a crackdown and opened intensive fire on the streets of Keelung; there was gunfire all over Taipei that evening.
On March 9th, Chen Yi refused to communicate, and declared martial law in Taipei and Keelung. Military reinforcements from the central government on the Tai-Kang ship landed in Keelung and marched toward Taipei, shooting and killing along the way. There was nonstop gunfire all day long, and people were being captured and killed one after another. Yet, on the same day, some parts of the country followed Chen Yi's orders and nominated Huang Bai-Lu 黃百祿, Ho Chuan-Cheng 侯全成 and Tang Teh-Chang 湯德章 as mayoral candidates for Tainan City; Zhang Qi-Lang 張七郎, Ma Yu-Yueh 馬有岳 and Lai Geng-Song 賴耿松 were nominated as county mayoral candidates for Hualian County.
Area 5｜Repression and Crackdown
Hsieh Hsueh-Hung 謝雪紅 led the armed confrontation in Taichung during the 228 Incident. After fighting for greater autonomy through the legislative assembly along with the local gentries, Hsieh Hsueh-Hung and the others went their separate ways. On March 6th, Hsieh Hsueh-Hung organized the student army from the various schools in Central Taiwan to form the “TWO-SEVEN ARMY”二七部隊. On March 15th, request from the Nationalist army asking the “TWO-SEVEN ARMY” to back down was refused. On March 16th, both parties engaged in a fierce battle by the Wu-niu-lan Bridge 烏牛瀾橋. Even though there were less than 40 people in the student army, the 21 divisions of Nationalist army still paid a considerable price, making this the most intense battle during the 228 Incident. After they were out of ammunition and support, the “TWO-SEVEN ARMY” disbanded and its members became vagrant fugitives.
In the display case you can see the weapons used by the civilian army at the time. Even though they didn't match the firepower of the military, but as Huang Chin-Tao 黃金島 of the “TWO-SEVEN ARMY” had said, as long as you have the impulse to protect your family and defend the people, you won't care about sacrificing your life.
Next is the The Battle at Shui-shang 水上Airport in Chiayi. The people of Chiayi responded to the 228 Incident by joining the protests. The army entered the city several times to suppress the uprising, making the confrontation more intense. Later on, with the help of an aboriginal youth in Wufung 吳鳳Township, the civilian army was able to take down the Hongmaopi紅毛埤armory. On March 11th, the Nationalist reinforcements arrived in Chiayi. In order to minimize casualties, the Settlement Committee Chairman Chen Fu-Chih 陳復志, went to negotiate a resolution with the army but was detained, along with 8 other people. The city senators, who went along, Pan Mu-Chih 潘木枝, Chen Cheng-Po 陳澄波, Ke Lin 柯麟, and Lu Ping-Ching 盧鈵欽, were publicly executed in front of the Chiayi Train Station on March 25th.
During the island-wide uprising of confrontations, Chiayi was the area with the most intense armed confrontations and it was also where the fight for a peaceful settlement was the hardest and most precious. They died for the citizens. Their sacrifice in the pursuit of peace is remembered by generations to come.
On March 8th, after the Nationalist Government army arrived in Taiwan, Chen Yi declared martial law and began military repression. 228 reformers were the first to be arrested and killed. There were incidents of indiscriminate killings and robbery by the army all over Taiwan.
During this period, in the Keelung area, people were brought to the port by soldiers in military vehicles. Wires were then pierced through their hands and feet; a row of people were strung together, shot and then pushed into the ocean.
Next is the “Arrest and Assassination of Reformers” by the government. This document was a classified document that was presented to Chairman Chiang Kai-Shek by the Intelligence Unit, which recorded the order given by Chen Yi to the Special Unit within the Military Police stationed in Taiwan, to secretly arrest National Assemblyman Lin Lien-Tsung 林連宗, lawyers Lin Kui-Tuan 林桂端 and Lee Rui-Feng 李瑞峰. As a result of the state's violent acts of secret arrests and assassinations, to this day, the families of the victims continue to endure the pain of not knowing where the remains of their loved ones are, not having a grave site to pay respects and not knowing the anniversary of their deaths.
The third is “Newspapers and Schools Shut Down”. On March 13th, the Police Commissioner closed down the People's Daily 《人民導報》and Minbao 《民報》newspapers over accusations of “rebellious ideology, preposterous remarks, defamation of the government and incitement of mutiny”. On March 20th, the Police Commissioner also closed down Yanping College 延平學院 and used “part of the student body participated in the revolt and it's considered a special case of criminal act” as the justification.
The fourth is “Military Repression”. In order to completely eliminate those participants in the 228 Incident, the Police Commissioner divided Taiwan into seven major appeasement areas. First is repression using military power, then followed by crackdown, in order to fully investigate and arrest those local figures that had anything to do with the Incident. On May 15th, the work of eradication for all of Taiwan was completed and the force behind the anti-Chen Yi government movement was almost completely eliminated.
Area 6｜The Martyred Souls
Some of the martyred souls of the 228 Incident are now introduced.
During the 228 Incident, many elite leaders in the judiciary system were killed. They were receptive to modern ideological trends and were deeply instilled with democratic and human rights values. Not only did they demand judicial independence, but they also brought the heads of corruption to justice. After the Incident, they were secretly arrested and assassinated by the Chen Yi government. In the display case is a collection of books belonging to Taiwan Supreme Court Justice Wu Hong-Qi 吳鴻麒. His body was found under the Nangang Bridge after the 228 Incident. Through his personal remnants you can see the figure of a legal professional.
During the Incident, the call for democracy resonated across time. The first Taiwanese civil representatives after the war played a key role. They had a deep understanding for the reasons behind the deterioration of politics; they advocated for direct elections of county and city mayors and the use of Taiwanese people in order to change the governance structure. They became the people that suffered the most during the Incident. You can see the undergarment belonging to Chiayi City Senator Chen Cheng-Po 陳澄波, which was punctured by a bullet, as well as a picture of Constitutional National Assemblyman Lin Lien-Tsung in front of the National Assembly.
Taiwanese medical professionals have played a leadership role in society since the Japanese era. During the Incident, whether it was proposing political reform or negotiating local conflicts, or even standing up against the corrupt regime, there was always the participation of doctors. They became victims of the crackdown and blackmail after the Incident.
In the display case is the medical equipment that Constitutional National Assemblyman Chang Chi-Lang's son, Chang Tsung-Ren 張宗仁, brought back from Manchukuo. After the war, his father told him to come back to Taiwan and “share the joy of being governed by our own people”. Unexpectedly, after they rejoiced and welcomed the Motherland, the three of them, father and sons, were executed during the 228 Incident.
The corruption of the Chen Yi government was deeply disappointing to the people. The people's desire to govern was so strong and their critical words were becoming increasingly intense by the day. After the Incident, the People's Daily and 11 other newspaper agencies were closed down; people in the media were arrested and killed across-the-board from north to south. You can see that MinBao's publisher Lin Mao-Sheng 林茂生, People's Daily's publisher Sung Fei-Ru 宋斐如 and Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News' General Manager Ruan Chao-Ri 阮朝日, who were people in charge of prominent newspapers at that time, were all killed.
Provincial Political Development Association
Formed by anti-Japanese groups such as the “Taiwan People's Party”, it was originally a group that planned the political direction for the party. However, it was suppressed by Chen Yi and became the most important political pressure group after the war. Most of its members participated in the Settlement Committee and actively proposed plans for reform. After the Incident, its members and members of the “Three Principles of the People Youth Corps” were eradicated by officials. You can see the English typewriter used by Taiwan's first financier Chen Hsin 陳炘, as well as the comics drawn by artist Chang Yi-Hsiung 張義雄 for Liao Chin-Ping 廖進平 during his speech.
Area 7｜The Wall of the Martyred
Some of the 228 victims left death notes just before they were to be executed. On the right side of the display case is the death note that Chiayi City Senator Lu Ping-Chin left for his wife, and on the left is the death note of Taichung doctor Ku Shang-Tai 顧尚泰. You can also touch the screen on the left wall and read the death note of each victim.
The military stormed into Taiwan and caused tragic deaths and injuries. Portraits of the martyred are displayed on white walls throughout the corridor. The first part shows the violation of human rights and as you walk along the ramp you will see the portraits of those from various professions. Civil representatives, Provincial Political Development Association, Three Principles of the People Youth Corps, the judiciary profession, the media , the medical profession, education, civil servants, public enterprises, the police, military personnel, business people, laborers, farmers, students, children and juveniles.
Area 8｜Wall of Shih Ju-Chen
The White Terror of the 50's descended upon Taiwan following the 228 Incident. This re-creation, simulate how 228 Incident participant Shih Ju-Chen 施儒珍, spent 17 years inside a 2-foot wide fake wall.
Shih Ju-Chen was put in prison for anti-Japanese government activities during the Japanese era. After the war, he eagerly anticipated the return of his Motherland, only to witness government corruption, and his thoughts became left leaning. He was injured when the soldiers opened fire during the 228 Incident and became part of the list of the people being hunted during the crackdown period; the White Terror of the 50's descended and many of his friends from the left book reading club were arrested one after another. Shih Ju-Chen was also wanted by the police and started to flee.
Shih Ju-Chen's uncle, who had harbored him for three days, was imprisoned for three years. Intelligence agents came to look for him during the day and harassed them at night; his brother Shih Ju-Chang 施儒昌 figured out a way to build a fake wall in the woodshed in their house, left a 2-foot wide hiding space and put a chamber pot in there. He removed a few bricks each day to deliver meals to Shih Ju-Chen, day after day and year after year.
What kind of a terrifying era would make someone want to be isolated from the world by way of self-imprisonment? Shih Ju-Chen suffered from jaundice in 1970 and was not able to see a doctor. When he died, he was not able to have a funeral and was at last put in a coffin made from doors and buried in the backyard of their house.
Area 9｜Memories of the Scars
Testimonies of the victims' families are used here to display nearly 50 years of memories from the 288 Incident, which have been frozen in time due to government repression. You can see the wives and children of reformers who were taken away by police in plainclothes still holding on to a sliver of hope, after all those years, hoping that their husbands and fathers would come back one day. The families of the victims suffered from the loss of their loved ones and the White Terror that followed, which caused further obstacles in their lives, love life and job advancement. There was almost no mentioning of the 228 Incident; the deep wounds and the tremendous trauma have not been able to heal.
Area 10｜Tower of the Martyred Archives
This is a tower erected using the documents of the victims. President Lee Teng-Hui 李登輝formally apologized for the 228 Incident in 1995 and promulgated the “228 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act”. That same year, the Memorial Foundation of 228 was set up to accept applications for compensation and officially face the state's violence against human rights. You can browse through some of the documents here and read about the stories of the victims.