Located on Nanhai Road next to the National 228 Memorial Museum, Chien Kuo High School is Taipei's most prestigious high school, and every Taiwanese person is familiar with its name. Renowned for its liberal learning environment and high rate of admission to university, the school is widely regarded as one of the most reputable in northern Taiwan. Chien Kuo High's predecessor, Taihoku First Middle School, was founded during the Japanese colonial period in 1898 mainly for educating Japanese students. In the 1940s, the total number of students enrolled was about 1,000, of which Taiwanese students accounted for no more than 3%.
In 1945, after the end of the Second World War, the Japanese government withdrew its control of Taiwan, leaving behind many ethnic Japanese on the island awaiting repatriation to Japan. Ethnic Japanese students who were waiting for post-war relocation studied temporarily at Taihoku First Middle School or Taihoku Third Middle School (today's Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University), while most Taiwanese students in Taipei studied at Taihoku Fourth Middle School. Only after the repatriation of Japanese students did Taihoku Fourth Middle School move its campus to the original site of Taihoku First Middle School, which is the current location of Chien Kuo High School. In early 1946, it was officially named Taiwan Provincial Chien Kuo High School by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China. In 1967, after Taipei became an Executive Yuan controlled municipality, the school was renamed Taipei Municipal Chien Kuo Senior High School or Chienchung for short in Mandarin.
During its history of more than 120 years, the school witnessed the Japanese colonial period, the Taihoku Air Raid before the end of the Second World War, and the post-war rehabilitation period after the Chinese Nationalist government took control of Taiwan. It also lived through autocracy, dictatorship and the martial law period, during which time people were deprived of freedom of speech. Before the democratization of Taiwan, different generations of students and teachers from this school listened to their conscience and stood up against the injustices of the time, which unfortunately resulted in the imprisonment or execution of many. At one point, the school's principal was even detained by the Taiwan Garrison Command for several months simply for attempting to have his students released from custody. The cruel arrests, forced disappearances, torture, and executions by shooting that were inflicted on students and teachers after the outbreak of the February 28 Incident left an indelible mark not only on school itself, but also on Taiwan's democratic development in the 20th century. Only by learning more about their experiences can one understand the importance of transitional justice and the controversy over the removal of the "entrance monument," a statue of Chiang Kai-shek, behind the school's front gate.
Designed by Kondo Juro, the school building of Taihoku First Middle School (today's Chien Kuo High School) was built in the 1910s. It was named the Red House due to its red brick exterior. This picture shows the school's front gate and the Red House in 1936.
A bird's-eye view of Taihoku First Middle School during the Japanese colonial period. The building at the top of the picture is the Red House. The building on the left is a wooden building, and the building surrounded by trees in the lower part of the picture is the principal's dormitory.
Having been ruled by Japan for 50 years from 1895 to 1945, Taiwan had been ushered into an era of modernization. As a result, Taiwanese people were generally accustomed to good hygiene practices and politeness, and were mostly law-abiding citizens. The overall development of Taiwan at the time was more advanced than in China.
After the Second World War ended in 1945, the people of Taiwan fervently welcomed the Republic of China regime from their "ancestral land" and studied the new national language Mandarin with great enthusiasm. Knowing that their generation represented the future of the country, many students and young adults also closely followed current affairs and were eager to participate in society.
【The Shibuya Incident and anti-American protests】
In July 1946, a brawl between Japanese police officers and Taiwanese expatriates broke out in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan. Since Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers after its surrender in 1945, the U.S. military court was responsible for prosecuting the Taiwanese who took part in the brawl, and decided that they should be deported. The decision sparked a wave of discontent among the Taiwanese community in Japan and aroused public outcry in Taiwanese society. Koeh Siu-chong (then a medical student at National Taiwan University and an alumni of Taihoku First Middle School) and Tan Peng-ki (then a law student at National Taiwan University) urged their fellow activists to give speeches at different schools to mobilize students to join a demonstration on December 20 of that year. On the chosen day, the demonstrators gathered outside the Taiwan Province Chief Executive's Office and the U.S. Consulate in Taiwan. This was the first public assembly to be initiated by students after the war.
A report written on December 28, 1946 by a Taiwan-based special correspondent of the Republic of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning student demonstrations in Taipei, which were triggered by the Shibuya Incident that broke out in Tokyo.
【The Shen Chong case and anti-American demonstrations】
In December 1946, Shen Chong, a student at China's Peking University, was raped by a U.S. soldier, which triggered an unrelenting wave of anti-American protests in China. Students in Taiwan were also closely watching the development of the Shen Chong case. Student leaders mainly from National Taiwan University decided to organize an anti-American demonstration on January 9, 1947, mobilizing students from many high schools and colleges, such as National Taiwan University, Yanping College, Chien Kuo High School and Cheng Kung High School, to take to the streets and protest outside the Taiwan Province Chief Executive's Office. This was the largest student-led public assembly to take place in the early post-war years.
On January 10, 1947, People's News reported that students in Taipei had protested in a demonstration triggered by the Shen Chong case. The students gathered at Taipei New Park at about 9 a.m. and marched to the U.S. consulate. The demonstrators disbanded at about 12 p.m.
The outbreak of the incident was as much accidental as inevitable.
The way in which Taiwan was taken over by the Chinese Nationalist government after the end of the Second World War resembled a "theft." Many Chinese officials who came to Taiwan after the war could not resist indulging their "old bad habits" when governing the former Japanese colony. As a result, embezzlement, unlawfulness, corruption, poor discipline, and harassment and extortion of civilians were so common that public grievances festered and people's livelihoods were jeopardized. Believing that the Taiwanese had been severely Japanized, the Chinese treated them as if they were second-class citizens. Therefore, all the hopes that many Taiwanese had regarding the regime from their "ancestral land" soured over time as they became increasingly disappointed and exasperated.
The widespread chaos and disruption caused by the Chinese Nationalist government's poor governance of Taiwan did not spare school campuses, where discontent and anger continued to grow. The daily lives of students and teachers were also impacted by food shortages, which made it hard for them to concentrate on schoolwork and teaching. Chen Yi's centralized economic policies caused a sustained slump in living standards, forcing many tobacco vendors to sell contraband cigarettes. On the evening of February 27, 1947, a violent conflict concerning smuggled tobacco broke out in front of Tianma Tea House, where contraband tobacco investigators hit a vendor and accidentally shot dead a bystander. The pent-up grievances of the Taiwanese soon turned into massive protests that took place the next day outside the Monopoly Bureau and the Chief Executive's Office. The indiscriminate killing of protesters by the guards at the Chief Executive's Office was soon broadcast by radio to the rest of Taiwan, sparking island-wide unrest. Enthusiastic students and other young adults showed solidarity with the protesters by volunteering to maintain law and order in their local communities or joining the armed resistance movement. However, after the reinforcements dispatched by the Chinese Nationalist government arrived on the island, high school and university campuses became the government's main focus in suppressing the resistance.
On March 2, 1947, Chen Yi sent a telegram to Chiang Kai-shek asking for infantry reinforcements to be sent immediately to Taiwan. In the telegram, Chen Yi mentioned that "dispatching at least one regiment to Taiwan would suffice to eliminate the traitorous bandits and to ease His Excellency's concerns about the southern land." Chiang Kai-shek replied to Chen Yi on March 5 in his own handwriting, saying, "I have already ordered an infantry regiment and a military police battalion to leave from Shanghai on the seventh day of this month, so please rest assured." A few days later, when the 21st Division arrived on March 8, an extensive massacre began at the Port of Keelung. A great number of Taiwanese people were killed or injured by soldiers in the subsequent military crackdown and "village-cleansing." According to Research Report on the February 28 Incident published by the Executive Yuan in 1992, the number of deaths attributable to the February 28 Incident is estimated to be between 18,000 and 28,000.
When the February 28 Incident broke out on February 28, 1947, people went to protest outside the Taipei Branch of the Monopoly Bureau.
After the outbreak of the February 28 Incident in March 1947, Chiang Kai-shek personally wrote an order commanding an infantry regiment and a military police battalion to depart from Shanghai on March 7. On March 8, the reinforcements arrived at the Port of Keelung, where the mass killings commenced.
The students in the Settlement Committee
After the outbreak of the February 28 Incident, all classes were suspended and many high school and tertiary students from National Taiwan University, Yanping College, Taipei Business School, Taipei Industrial School, Cheng Kung High School, Chien Kuo High School, and Kainan High School of Commerce and Industry formed the Federation of Taipei Students' Unions to liaise with other students. On March 1, the Contraband Cigarette Murder Investigation Committee was jointly established by members of the Taipei City Council, the National Assembly, the National Political Council, and the Taiwan Provincial Assembly at Zhongshan Hall, where its inaugural meeting was held. On the same day, the Investigation Committee was renamed the February 28 Incident Settlement Committee to deal with issues related to the incident.
At 10 a.m. on March 2, more than 1,000 senior students from National Taiwan University, Yanping College, the Taiwan Provincial College of Law and Business, Taiwan Provincial Normal School and several local high schools held a student conference at Zhongshan Hall. On the same day, the February 28 Incident Settlement Committee expanded its organization to include civilians, trade unions, chambers of commerce, students, and the Taiwan Provincial Political Construction Association, as well as representatives of the government and other members of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly and the National Assembly. At this time, many students joined the Settlement Committee and were tasked with maintaining public order. On March 3, the Settlement Committee passed a resolution to set up the Chung Yi Service Squad, of which many students and other young adults became members.
【The formation of the Chung Yi Service Squad】
After the formation of the Chung Yi Service Squad, Kho Tek-hui was chosen as the squad leader and the head of the public order unit. Taipei City Mayor Iu Bi-kian invited students and young adults to join the squad to assist in the maintenance of public order and organized them into different units, such as general affairs, supervision, catering, publicity, and management. The Chief Executive's Office provided the squad with funding, weaponry, and vehicles.
However, the Chung Yi Service Squad was, after all, set up by the government, and its head, Kho Tek-hui, received directions from the Taiwan Garrison Command when planning the organization of the squad. Its establishment had even been approved by Chen Yi. In addition to roughly 1,200 students from National Taiwan University, Normal College, Yanping College, Chien Kuo High School, Cheng Kung High School, and other schools, the service squad also recruited 250 gangsters who not only robbed, intimidated, extorted and murdered civilians, but also attacked post-war immigrants from China and burned down their businesses. After the arrival of Chinese Nationalist army reinforcements, students and young adults who had joined the Chung Yi Service Squad were slaughtered by soldiers near the armory in Yuanshan as they were blamed for the havoc wreaked by conspirators of the government.
Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News covered the Temporary Meeting on the Matter of Public Order in Taipei convened by the Settlement Committee, at which time the resolution to set up the Chung Yi Service Squad was passed.
【The failed attempt to form an armed squad of students】
After the outbreak of the February 28 Incident, some students planned to resort to armed actions by organizing a student army divided into three squads. One squad, directed by Tan Peng-ki, was assembled at Chien Kuo High School. Another squad, led by the deputy commander Koeh Siu-chong, gathered at Taiwan Provincial Normal School. The other squad, directed by the former Japanese soldier Li Tiong-chi who then served as the chief commander of the student army, gathered at National Taiwan University.
Planning to attack the loosely guarded Kengbe armory (located in today's Jingmei area) on the evening of March 4, the students went first to seek armed support from the indigenous community in Wulai. However, the communication was so poor that the original raid operation was postponed and many students had no choice but to go home. The heavy rain that day meant that the originally planned armed action had to be aborted.
【Resuming classes after the incident】
Assaults on post-war Chinese immigrants during the February 28 Incident intimidated teachers from different provinces of China, many of whom decided to quit their jobs due to concerns that their personal safety and possessions were under threat and that the economy of the island was in dire straits. Following the turmoil of the incident, many schools were faced with the problem of damaged school buildings and school property, as well as a shortage of teachers. Thus, resuming classes and restoring order in the education system of Taiwan became the top priority for the Chief Executive's Office.
The Taiwan Provincial Department of Education promulgated the Precautions for the Resumption of Provincial Secondary Schools and Tertiary Institutions in Taiwan Province, stipulating that not only should all school staff and students go back to school on March 17, 1947 and that students should be accompanied by their parents or guarantors to register their attendance at the school, but also that students were not allowed to participate in any gatherings or group activities without prior permission from the school authorities. After schools had reopened, the department issued Guidelines for Self-Confession with Regards to the February 28 Incident, demanding that students "confess" their involvement in the February 28 Incident. After the desired confessions were received, the department issued another decree, Disciplinary Standards for Students Participating in the February 28 Riots, to punish anyone who had been involved in the incident. The lightest punishment was writing a letter of remorse and the heaviest was expulsion from the school.
【The anti-communist infiltration campaign, party-state education, and Sinocentric pedagogy】
Having noticed how student movements were gaining traction on the Chinese mainland, the Chinese Nationalist government wanted to clamp down on Taiwanese schools after the February 28 Incident. It specifically ordered the relevant authorities to pay attention to whether student movements were influencing schools in Taiwan and demanded that schools monitor students' activities. Nevertheless, as schools in Taiwan started to return to normal in 1948, many student movements emerged to protest against issues such as high tuition fees, low-quality school meals and the Chinese civil war. It was not until students from National Taiwan University and National Taiwan Normal University were persecuted for their involvement in the April 6 Incident of 1949 that the end of freedom of speech on campuses was officially declared.
After the Republic of China government retreated to Taiwan in 1949, the Chinese Nationalist regime, having learned from its defeat by the communists in the Chinese civil war, decided to enhance its anti-communist infiltration campaign and tightened its control on campuses. Various spying systems, such as the Educated Youth Corps, the Educated Youth Branch of the Chinese Nationalist party, and the China Youth Corps were created to monitor campuses as well as to thwart communist infiltration. Given the overall atmosphere of Taiwanese society and the laws and regulations that had been put in place to strengthen counterintelligence, the campuses became more oppressive and restrictive than ever. In addition, the Chinese Nationalist government believed that Taiwan's "toxic" Japanese colonial heritage was the major cause of the February 28 Incident as the Taiwanese had been taught to despise their "ancestral land" and lacked a "correct" nationalist identity. Therefore, "rectifying deviations and restoring norms" became the most important goal of education in Taiwan after the February 28 Incident.
Following the February 28 Incident, and especially in the martial law period after the Chinese Nationalist party moved its central government to Taiwan in 1949, Sinocentrism and party-state patriotism were held as the guiding principles of Taiwan's education system. As a result, Mandarin as the "national language" was forced upon Taiwanese students, and Chinese history and culture, the Three Principles of the People, and the "father of the nation" Sun Yat-sen's ideas were taught at school. In the 1950s, the "national language campaign" was implemented at schools and in society at large and anyone who spoke local languages was severely punished. Students who were found to have spoken local languages were forced to hang placards around their necks or pay fines. In this way, the regime not only successfully suppressed the development of Taiwan's local culture, but also taught many Taiwanese to despise their own heritage.
【Cult of personality】
Promoting the personality cult of the dictator was one of the key measures taken by the Chinese Nationalist government to maintain its authoritarian rule over Taiwan. Even after Chiang Kai-shek died, the regime continued to build statues of him so that Taiwanese people could keep commemorating the "great leader." After Chiang Kai-shek's death in 1975, the Notice Regarding the Construction of Statues for the Honorable Former President Chiang was promulgated, and this was consulted by many schools until it was repealed in 2017.
【A window into a world of freedom – the United States Information Service】
During the martial law period, the transmission of information was strictly controlled by the government, which made the United States Information Service office, which was right next to Chien Kuo High School, an important venue for Taiwanese people who wished to receive information from the United States and other countries. Launched in 1959, the USIS Office was located at the building that now houses the National 228 Memorial Museum. The office was renamed the American Institute in Taiwan's American Cultural Center after the Republic of China and the United States broke their diplomatic ties in 1979, and was in operation until 2002. Concerts, film screenings, and exhibitions were held from time to time at the USIS Office. The USIS library also introduced Western literature and magazines to the isolated island, making the office a window through which the Taiwanese could take a peek at the freedom they did not enjoy at the time and attracting many intellectuals to visit. Many students from Chien Kuo High School also came here to learn, find inspiration, and explore the possibility of studying abroad.
In 1972, prior to the launch of Apollo 17, the United States Information Service held a special exhibition at its office (now the National 228 Memorial Museum).
On June 21, 1957, Jay Archer, the founder of Biddy Basketball and six-base softball, explained the rules of youth basketball at Chien Kuo High School.
【Teaching the history of the February 28 Incident: from 43 years of absence from history textbooks to the publication of the Research Report on the February 28 Incident】
The February 28 Incident was followed by the declaration of martial law and the fortification of the authoritarian regime, which made the incident a taboo that could not be mentioned. An historical perspective centered on a specific version of Chinese nationalism was constructed and held as the standard in the teaching of history, with the imagined common ancestor Yellow Emperor and the very first self-titled emperor Qin Shi Huang highly emphasized. In comparison, the history of Taiwan took up a very small proportion of the curriculum and, unsurprisingly, the February 28 Incident was completely ignored. The school education of the time was also tasked with strengthening ideological instruction in line with the Three Principles of the People, as well as legitimizing the Republic of China government's rule over the island. Although the proportion of Taiwanese history taught in the school curriculum started to increase over time following changes in international and domestic circumstances, such as the Republic of China's representatives being forced out of the United Nations and the death of Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan was still positioned on the periphery of the historical narrative of a great China.
After the death of Chiang Kai-shek, the authoritarian regime was no longer able to suppress the voices of Taiwanese people. Civil society and individual citizens started to probe into the truth of the February 28 Incident and demanded the government face up to past wrongdoings, start telling the truth, and include relevant historical facts in school textbooks. In 1987, many parties in civil society launched a campaign to right the historical wrongs of the February 28 Incident. They demanded the government officially apologize and compensate the victims, investigate the truth, open the archives to the public, establish memorial monuments and a museum, and designate February 28 as a national memorial day. In 1990, a description of the incident finally appeared for the very first time in the third volume of the senior high school history textbook. However, the total number of words used was less than 60 and Chen Yi, the Chief Executive at the time of the incident, was held solely accountable for the government's actions. Nonetheless, this still marked the beginning of efforts to describe the incident truthfully and without censorship.
In November 1990, the Executive Yuan invited Taiwanese scholars and experts to set up the February Incident Task Force, which was charged with compiling relevant records and historical evidence as well as writing reports. In 1991, senior high school history textbooks devoted even more space to the incident, including an acknowledgment that "improper military measures caused quite a large number of casualties." In 1992, the line "to soothe the souls of the unfortunate victims" was added. In 1993, "innocent people" was added. In 1994, the Research Report on the February 28 Incident was published by the Executive Yuan. In 1995, The February 28 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act was passed in the Legislative Yuan and in the same year, Lee Teng-hui, as the head of the Republic of China government, apologized to the families of the victims of the February 28 Incident and to all the people of Taiwan. From being completely ignored to becoming an integral part of the Taiwanese history curriculum, the February 28 Incident was a chapter of Taiwan's history that could not be brushed aside, especially after senior high school textbooks began to be published by multiple publishers in a way that adhered to stipulated curriculum guidelines in 1999 and after Taiwanese history textbooks independent of the history of China were later published. The government went from trying to hide the truth of the incident to enacting the Compensation Act, which shows that the truth-telling process in relation to the February 28 Incident has now become more comprehensive and historically accurate. At the same time, Taiwanese society has also been moving toward a full realization of transitional justice.
However, the Research Report on the February 28 Incident published by the Executive Yuan did not contain any attribution of responsibility. The Memorial Foundation of 228 thus invited scholars of various fields to conduct in-depth research on this matter and, in 2006, published the Research Report on the Responsibility for the February 28 Incident, which specifically analyzes the attribution of responsibility for the outbreak of, and the government's response to, the incident. Following an increasing number of archives and records being declassified and made available to the public, as well as legislation passing in the form of the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice, the Memorial Foundation of 228 published The February 28 Incident Truth and Transitional Justice Report, which, on the basis of recently unearthed documents and records, deals with aspects of the incident that could not be addressed in the past due to time and circumstantial constraints. Through the concerted efforts of the government and civil society, work dedicated to transitional justice in relation to the February 28 Incident will continue to be promoted and implemented.
On February 28, 1995, the head of state, Lee Teng-hui apologized to the families of the victims of the February 28 Incident and to all the people of Taiwan.
【The February 28 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act and the National 228 Memorial Museum】
On February 28, 1995, the construction of the 228 Memorial Monument, located inside Taipei's 228 Peace Memorial Park, was completed. On the same day, Lee Teng-hui, as the president of the country, apologized to the victims of the February 28 Incident and their families. On April 7 of the same year, The February 28 Incident Disposition and Reparation Act (whose name was changed to The February 28 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act in 2007) was promulgated and in November, as required by the new law, the Executive Yuan established the Memorial Foundation of 228, which was tasked with processing compensation applications, compensating the victims of the incident, organizing commemorative events, restoring the reputation of the victims, researching the truth of the incident, and educating the public. In July 2006, in accordance with the Act, the Executive Yuan approved the current site as the National 228 Memorial Museum. On February 28, 2011, after the historical building had been restored, the museum was officially opened to the public. The National 228 Memorial Museum aims to employ various themed exhibitions and educational events and activities to not only convey the values of democracy and freedom, but also to strengthen the foundation of human rights and peace in the hope of bringing the ideas of democracy and human rights closer to the lives of the general public.
In 2015, students from Chien Kuo High School visited the National 228 Memorial Museum.
Having been dispatched by the Chinese Nationalist government, the 21st Division of the ROC Army arrived in Taiwan on March 8 to carry out a military crackdown. The next day, martial law was imposed in Taipei City and this was extended across the whole island on March 17. Although martial law was in place, schools in Taiwan were ordered by the authorities to stay open. Teachers and principals worked hard to keep the schools and universities running and to educate their students but many went missing, were injured, declared as wanted or arrested after the outbreak of the February 28 Incident. Chen Wen-pin, the principal of Chien Kuo High School, was detained, and Ong Iok-lim, a teacher at the school, went missing; Ang Iam-chhiu, the principal of Taichung Normal College, was removed from his post and his teacher colleague Ngo Tin-bu was declared wanted by the police; Lim Keng-goan, the principal of Kaohsiung High School, was removed from his post; Lin Mosei, the acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts at National Taiwan University, went missing after being arrested by the government; Hsu Cheng, a National Taiwan University lecturer who was a post-war Chinese immigrant himself, also went missing after being arrested; So Iau-pang, the principal of the Ilan School of Agriculture and Forestry, was murdered; Tan Leng-thong, the principal of Tamsui High School, went missing; Tiunn Ko-jin, a teacher of Hualien High School, was murdered; and the list goes on.
【Victimized teachers from Chien Kuo High School】
Chen Wen-pin: "He set the standard of how to be a teacher"
Born Tan Chheng-kim in Takao Prefecture (today's Kaohsiung), Chen Wen-pin graduated from Japan's Hosei University in 1931 and taught at Fudan University and Hosei University before he moved back to Taiwan from Japan in 1946. While working as the principal of Chien Kuo High School, Chen Wen-pin recruited many high-achieving graduates of Tokyo Imperial University and other prestigious universities to teach at his school. Meanwhile, at the invitation of Sung Fei-ju, he also worked as the editor-in-chief of People's Herald News, a newspaper that often reported on scandals and corruption and that was critical of the government. When the February 28 Incident broke out, People's Herald News, which had long angered authorities with its reporting, was immediately shut down.
After the outbreak of the incident, four students from Chien Kuo High School (Ngo Ak-hi, Koeh Kok-sun, Li Tek-chhiong and Tan Iam-tin) were arrested and detained for participating in the February 28 Incident. The Taiwan Garrison Command sent out the following message: "As long as the principal of the school comes forward to pick them up, we will let them go home immediately!" So, Chen Wen-pin went to the Taiwan Garrison Command headquarters and said, "I heard that you have arrested four Chien Kuo High School students and told their parents that only I can bring them back. Now that I am here, you should release the four students at once!" A few days later, the four students were released, but, not to his surprise, Chen Wen-pin was detained instead. In May of the same year, because the Chief Executive's Office was being reorganized into the Taiwan Provincial Government, Chen Wen-pin's case was finalized with a decision not to prosecute him. In May 1949, assisted by Sung Fei-ju's wife Chu Yen-hwa, Chen Wen-pin left Taiwan for Beijing, China and never set foot in Taiwan again.
After the outbreak of the February 28 Incident, the commander of the Taipei Pacification Zone ordered that many newspapers, publishing houses and schools be shut down. People's Herald News was also on the list.
Ong Jiok-lim: The first prosecutor of Taiwanese heritage to serve in Japan's legal system.
Ong Iok-lim's intelligence was evident early in his life. While studying humanities at Taihoku High School, he realized that he needed to study the law of Japan so that he could fight for the rights he believed should be enjoyed by Taiwanese people. Later, he entered the Department of Law at Tokyo Imperial University, the most prestigious law department in Japan. After his graduation, he became a prosecutor at the Kyoto District Court and the first prosecutor of Taiwanese heritage to serve in the Japanese legal system.
After the end of the Second World War, Ong Iok-tek wished wholeheartedly to return to Taiwan so that he could serve his homeland. It happened that there was a vacancy at the Hsinchu District Prosecutor's Office, so he applied for the position and started to work as a prosecutor in Taiwan. He was scrupulous and unbiased when investigating cases and was never afraid of the rich and the powerful. Because of this, his office was surrounded by police sent by the Hsinchu City Mayor Kuo Shao-tsung, who was under his investigation for misappropriating milk powder donated by the United States government. The police took away Ong Iok-lim's dossier on this case, which forced him to quit the position as he could not continue his investigation. He soon moved to Taipei to work as an English teacher at Chien Kuo High School, but was implicated in the February 28 Incident. On March 14, 1947, an unidentified mob wearing Zhongshan suits broke into Ong Iok-lim's house, handcuffed him and abducted him. His whereabouts remain unknown today.
A photograph of Ong Iok-lim, his wife Tan Sian-cha, and his son Ong Khek-hiong.
On August 13, 1946, People's News reported Ong Iok-lim's investigation into the scandal surrounding the Hsinchu City Government's distribution of food rations. In addition to revelations about Mayor Kuo Shao-tsung's misappropriation of milk powder, there was discussion of other problems in the distribution of rations.
【Victimized students from Chien Kuo High School】
In the early post-war years, Taiwanese students enjoyed a liberal learning environment and many participated in social movements with great enthusiasm. However, after the Chinese Nationalist government took control of the island, the new regime was rife with prejudice and misunderstanding when it came to the languages Taiwanese people spoke, the way they behaved and thought, and even what they wore. Indeed, the government believed that the Taiwanese had been overly "Japanized." The various scandalous behaviors and activities of government officials also caused great concern among students and other young adults who cared deeply about current affairs and the development of their country and would not hesitate to express their opinions about political controversies. After the outbreak of the February 28 Incident, some Chien Kuo High School students were arrested for taking part in protests and some others were injured or killed after being innocently implicated in the incident.
Ngo Ak-hi: "The February 28 Incident was a nightmare."
When the February 28 Incident broke out, Ngo Ak-hi was studying at Chien Kuo High School. As a student representative, he needed to understand the situation, so he went by bicycle with his classmates to attend a meeting in Xindian. To their surprise, they were obstructed by soldiers who beat them up and arrested them in the Gongguan area. Not knowing whether their son had been arrested or killed, Ngo Ak-hi's parents spent more than ten days traveling all over the city to identify bodies until they knew with confidence that their son was still alive. In order to save their son, they sold their business so that they could obtain enough money to bribe government officials.
While detained, Ngo Ak-hi was coercively interrogated on whether Chen Wen-pin, the principal of Chien Kuo High School, or any other teachers at the school had been involved in the protest. In the end, Ngo Ak-hi was sentenced to two years of imprisonment, suspended for five years. Although he was very unhappy about the decision, he still decided to plead guilty with his classmates after seeing his tearful teachers nearby begging him to do so, and he was released after the court hearing. After this, he resolved that he would never cause his parents to worry about him again and diligently completed his studies at Chien Kuo High School and National Taiwan University. However, many employment opportunities were blocked to him, and he suspected this was because he had been secretly surveilled by the government. Therefore, he gave up applying for a public service position and worked in the private sector instead. He never talked about the past and was silent about his involvement in the incident for 40 years, not even telling his wife.
After the outbreak of the February 28 Incident, a List of Criminal Rioters was compiled, which included the Chien Kuo High School students Li Tek-chhiong, Koeh Kok-sun, Ngo Ak-hi and Tan Iam-tin.
Koeh Koh-sun: "I couldn't continue my studies as I was deeply traumatized physically and psychologically."
When the February 28 Incident broke out, Koeh Koh-sun was a student at Chien Kuo High School. At midnight, about a week after the outbreak of the incident, a group of roughly ten unidentified people broke into his house and abducted him, taking him to the former Higashi-Honganji Temple for coercive interrogation. After being detained for a while, he was transported to the Bureau of Military Law. In total, he spent about two months in custody and was released after being sentenced by the Taiwan Garrison Command to two years in prison, suspended for five years. Having been severely traumatized both physically and psychologically, he could not continue with his studies. Furthermore, his younger brother Koeh Kok-tiong was severely injured by Chinese Nationalist soldiers when they indiscriminately shot at people on the street.
Koeh Kok-tiong: "Although the incident has long ended, the wounds to my body have not disappeared."
Koeh Kok-tiong was an active student in his second year of junior high school and a member of the swimming team at Chien Kuo High School at the time of the February 28 Incident. In March 1947, he was shot by soldiers in a military vehicle on his way home from school. Severely injured, with the right side of his chest bleeding heavily, Koeh Kok-tiong was saved by his classmates who were walking past. After a long period recovering, he was ready to go back to school when his condition improved. However, he was surprised to learn that his student status had been automatically cancelled by the school, on the grounds that "any student who does not resume his studies immediately is considered ideologically problematic." As a result, he was forced to abort his education and stay at home.
More than 20 bullet fragments were left in Koeh Kok-tiong's chest. Even years later, he still suffered from his wounds. His relatives and neighbors did not dare have any relationship with him as he had been shot and his brother had been detained and sentenced. The incident had a significant impact on his quality of life and employment.
Li Tek-chhiong: "I haven't been able to brush aside the feeling of terror."
Li Tek-chhiong was a second-year high school student at Chien Kuo High School in Taipei City and served in the student association to help maintain public order. After the February 28 Incident, his classmate Ngo Ak-hi was arrested when he went to Xindian for a meeting. About a week later, the police went to Li Tek-chhiong's residence and took him away on the grounds that the relevant unit had asked for an appointment. The Taiwan Garrison Command gave him a two-year prison sentence, suspended for five years, for "plotting the seizure of a government office," and he was soon released. After returning to school, his physical and mental injuries were severe, and he often experienced a feeling of terror. It was not until he graduated from university and gained employment that he gradually recovered.
Ng Siu-gi: "You shot the wrong person!"
Ng Siu-gi was a second-year senior high student at Chien Kuo High School when the February 28 Incident broke out. On the morning of March 10, 1947, he and his brother Ng Siu-le, then a fifth-year elementary school student, went out to buy biscuits for breakfast. Not far from their home, they ran into a group of Chinese Nationalist soldiers searching people's belongings. Seeing them, the soldiers asked the brothers to come over. As they drew nearer, one of the soldiers pulled the trigger on his rifle and Ng Siu-gi immediately fell to the ground. Panicked, Ng Siu-le ran home yelling "Brother! Brother!" His family members who had just heard the gunshots from outside knew something terrible had happened when they saw Ng Siu-le yelling. They rushed to the scene of the violence and saw the Chinese Nationalist soldiers still there. Hiding behind a tree, Ng Siu-le's father shouted "You shot the wrong person!" in Mandarin. One of the soldiers fired two shots at him. Luckily, he was not hurt. Soon after the soldiers left the scene, the family hurried to Ng Siu-gi, who was lying in a pool of blood, and found that he had died.
Ng Siu-le holding a portrait of his older brother Ng Siu-gi.
Koeh Siu-chong: "I have so much work that I have not finished!"
Born in 1918, Koeh Siu-chong was a graduate of Taihoku First Middle School and the College of Medicine at National Taiwan University. He always cared about current affairs and often published commentary in newspapers. Before the end of the Second World War, he had been detained for participating in the anti-Japanese movement.
In the early post-war years before the February 28 Incident, cholera had suddenly broken out and spread across the whole of the island. During this period, Koeh Siu-chong traveled around Taiwan treating patients and promoting public health knowledge. He also visited remote indigenous communities to treat the epidemic disease among his fellow indigenous compatriots. In the wake of the February 28 Incident, he was elected to chair the Taiwan Student Alliance and called for the abolishment of China's feudal system and the rejection of corrupt government officials in Japanese and Taiwanese-language broadcasts at Taiwan Radio Station, which was located in Taipei New Park (now the 228 Peace Memorial Park). Although Koeh Siu-chong survived the February 28 Incident, he and his wife were arrested in 1950 for participating in a communist organization, the Taiwan Provincial Working Committee. Koeh Siu-chong was sentenced to death after being prosecuted under the Punishment of Rebellion Act (Section 1, Article 2). In the morning of November 28, 1950, he was executed by shooting at Machangting (today's Machangting Memorial Park). He once said in prison, "I have already lived seven more years. I should have died back when the Japanese military police arrested me… It's a pity I am not able to live for a couple more years so I can do more work. I have so much work that I have not finished!"
【The agony of bereavement – Chien Kuo High School students whose family members were victimized】
The unexplained arrests and disappearances of their fathers threw the lives of two Chien Kuo High School students, Sung Hung-tao and Li Eng-chhiong, into a misery unimaginable to most. Not only did they have to put up with ridicule from others and the sorrow and agony of losing their loved ones, but they were also faced with lives of deprivation and displacement caused by the sudden loss of the breadwinners in their households. More than 70 years have passed and they are still waiting for the day when the complete truth of the incident can be revealed.
Sung Hung-tao (the son of Sung Fei-ju, a victim of the February 28 Incident): "Since my father disappeared, I have been hardened by economic and social privation."
Sung Hung-tao is the eldest son of Sung Fei-ju, a victim of the February 28 Incident who once served as the deputy director of the education department under the Chief Executive's Office, which was the highest-ranked position to be held by any civil servant of Taiwanese heritage in the early post-war years. A righteous man, he founded People's Herald News in his leisure time. However, a newspaper that criticized government policies and exposed the malpractices of many corrupt officials was not tolerated by the regime and Sung Fei-ju was forcibly taken from his home in the wake of the February 28 Incident. Even today, his whereabouts are unknown.
Sung Hung-tao was a 13-year-old in his first year of junior high at Chien Kuo High School when his father was taken away. Due to the economic hardship experienced by his family as a result, he had no choice but to drop out of school. In May 1949, his step-mother, Chu Yen-hwa, helped Chien Kuo High School principal Chen Wen-pin to flee Taiwan and, as a result, she was arrested for committing the crime of conspiring with communists. She was executed at Machangting in 1950 by the authorities.
After Sung Hung-tao became an orphan, he was left no choice but to wander the streets. He often slept rough inside Taipei New Park (today's 228 Memorial Park) and the Taipei Railway Station. His late father's former friends, subordinates or drivers did not dare extend a helping hand as they were worried about their own personal safety in the stifling environment of the White Terror period. Hardened by economic and social privation, Sung Hung-tao finally persevered to find a full-time job and built himself a secure life. However, the February 28 Incident is still a source of ineradicable pain in his life.
Portrait of Sung Hung-tao.
Portrait of Sung Fei-ju.
Built in 1910, the building that housed the headquaters of People's Herald News is now the municipal heritage-listed Taipei Futai Street Mansion. People's Herald News was established on January 1, 1946, by Sung Fei-ju as its president and Chen Wen-pin as the editor-in-chief. As a left-wing newspaper, it covered and criticized political and economic chaos in the early post-war years. As a result, the newspaper was already the target of intelligence agencies well before the outbreak of the February 28 Incident, with Sung Fei-ju forced to resign from his role in the newspaper to be succeded by Ong Thiam-teng.
Following the February 28 Incident, People's Herald News reported on what had occurred in detail. In March, the newspaper was shut down by the Taiwan Garrison Command, which accused it of being "a leading force behind ideologically reactionary individuals who use ridiculous remarks to vilify the government and incite riots." Sung Fei-ju went missing after being arrested for "leading an attempted rebellion" by the authorities.
Li Eng-chhiong (the son of Li Sui-han, a victim of the February 28 Incident): "Go home, Chhiong!"
Li Eng-chhiong is Li Sui-han's eldest son. On March 10, 1947, Chang Mu-tao, the leader of the Fourth Military Police Regiment, went to the house of Li Sui-han, the head of the Taipei Lawyer Association who lived in the former Miyamaecho district of Taipei (near today's Section 2 and 3 of Zhongshan North Road). Chang Mu-tao took Li Sui-han, his brother Li Sui-hong, and his friend Lim Lian-chong (a member of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly) away, using the excuse that the Chief Executive Chen Yi had invited them to a meeting. Their whereabouts are still unknown today.
During the Japanese colonial period, Li Eng-chhiong studied at Taihoku First Middle School, where the students were predominantly Japanese. As one of the very few Taiwanese students, Li Eng-chhiong came from a family that did not accept the Japanization policies of the Kōminka Movement and thus he had never changed his original name to a Japanese one. As a result, he was often bullied by senior students of Japanese heritage at the school. After the end of the Second World War, Li Eng-chhiong's family initially thought the mistreatment and exploitation they had experienced living under the Japanese had ended. However, they were soon to witness the outbreak of the February 28 Incident and the Chinese Nationalist government's subsequent extensive arrest campaign and military crackdown on the resistance movement. Li Eng-chhiong's father, Li-Sui-han, was wrongly implicated in the incident.
Li Eng-chhiong recalled that after Li-Sui-han, Li Sui-hong and Lim Lian-chong were taken away, he followed them all the way until his father, who was trying to keep him safe, yelled at him in Japanese "Go home, Chhiong!" At the time, he did not know that these would be his father's last words to him.
In 1939, when Li Sui-han was running for Taihoku city councilor, he distributed election campaign materials in front of his head office located in 4-Chome, Taiheichō (today's Yanping North Road area).
Li Eng-chhiong holding a portrait of his father Li Sui-han.
Cheng Nan-jung, a democracy fighter
"I was born in the year of the February 28 Incident, which has troubled me my whole life."
The ideological transformation of a Chinese immigrant's child
The year the February 28 Incident broke out in 1947 was also the year Cheng Nan-jung was born. As a child of a Chinese immigrant who grew up in a liberal family, he had been critical of authoritarianism since childhood. After finishing junior high school in Yilan, he moved to Taipei to study at Chien Kuo High School and lived with his father's uncle in a military dependents' village in Banciao. According to the recollection of Cheng Nan-jung's younger brother, Cheng Ching-hua, Cheng Nan-jung received more supervision than care from his father's uncle and had a monotonous life focused only on schoolwork. It was only when Cheng Nan-jung started to live independently at a rental house and fervently browsed bookshops on Guling Street in his last year of senior high school that he became radicalized in his thinking. After finishing school, he studied initially in the College of Engineering at National Cheng Kung University before studying in the Department of Philosophy at Fu Jen Catholic University and finally in the Department of Philosophy at National Taiwan University.
Although his university period was said to be the time when Cheng Nan-jung experienced transformation in his thinking, Cheng Ching-hua believes the seed of change was planted in his older brother as early as in his final year of senior high school.
The reason Cheng Nan-jung strongly advocated for the de jure independence of Taiwan was that he believed only after the Chinese Nationalist party's authoritarian rule had been overturned could Taiwan have the chance of becoming a true democracy. He also believed that only de jure independence could prevent the island from repeating the history of the February 28 Incident, as the dramatic differences in culture, economic and political systems between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China could easily spark a similar conflict if the latter ever took control of the former. Having devoted his life to promoting democracy, overturning authoritarianism, and "striving for full freedom of speech and expression," Cheng Nan-jung translated his political ideas into actions by publishing magazines and participating in social movements, including the May 19 Green Action (aimed at ending martial law) and the February 28 Peace Day Promotion Association (aimed at pursuing transitional justice).
February 28 Peace Day Promotion Association
On February 4, 1987, the February 28 Peace Day Promotion Association was formed by many domestic and overseas groups, with Chen Yung-hsing as the president, Li Sheng-Hsiung as the vice-president, and Cheng Nan-jung as the secretary-general. These groups jointly announced the February 28 Peace Declaration, which called on the government to disclose the truth surrounding the February 28 Incident, to restore the reputations of the victims, and to designate February 28 as Peace Day. Later, the February 28 Peace Day Promotion Association organized public speeches at various locations around Taiwan. Despite being watched closely by the military and police nearby, they bravely talked about a taboo that the government had tried to hide away from the Taiwanese people. Most people in the audience were very surprised to learn that such a tragedy had occurred on the land where they grew up, and they felt deep sympathy for the victims.
On behalf of the February 28 Peace Day Promotion Association, Cheng Nan-jung published the full text of the Draft Constitution of the Republic of Taiwan in The Freedom Era Weekly, which resulted in his prosecution by the authorities for "orchestrating a rebellion." On April 7, 1989, when the police were trying to arrest Cheng Nan-jung at his office, he set himself on fire to express his protest against the government's suppression of freedom of speech. On December 22, 2016, the Executive Yuan designated April 7, the day Cheng Nan-jung self-immolated, as "Freedom of Speech Day."
On February 26, 1987, Cheng Nan-jung presented flowers and bowed to the victims of the February 28 Incident in front of the Chiayi Railway Station.
On March 7, 1987, Cheng Nan-jung and Chen Yung-hsing led a group of protesters to rally outside the Changhua County government to demand the truth about the February 28 Incident. The police clashed with the protesters and the protesters' van with loudspeakers was damaged.
Su Beng (Si Tiau-hui) – a life-long revolutionary
"Young people, you have got to be ambitious!"
When the seed of resistance sprouted – the Taihoku Middle School period
Su Beng (Si Tiau-hui), a Taiwanese revolutionary and the author of Taiwan's 400 Year History: The Origins and Continuing Development of the Taiwanese Society and People, was born in 1918 in Shirin Town of Taihoku Prefecture. In 1932, he was admitted into Taihoku First Middle School at the age of 15. Having been influenced by the anti-Japanese sentiment of his father's generation since childhood, Su Beng started to demonstrate a defiant attitude over time while studying at the middle school. In his first year, after witnessing how a senior student Tan Kin-hoe was expelled from the school for having criticized the invasion of China by the Japanese, Su Beng was so ideologically challenged that he became an uncooperative Taiwanese student who often argued and fought with badly behaved Japanese schoolmates. Despite living in an era of Japanization policies and Japanese militarism, Su Beng was exposed to the rest of the world and new ways of thinking through reading his father's magazine subscriptions from the Japanese mainland.
During the Japanese colonial period, the types of occupations that Taiwanese could pursue were restricted by the government, and most students who were admitted into Taihoku First Middle School wanted to practice medicine after graduation. One day, the young Su Beng chanced upon the words of William Smith Clark, the former president of Sapporo Agricultural College, in a Japanese magazine: "Young people, you have got to be ambitious!" Soon after, he left the school with determination and moved to the Japanese mainland, where he later studied politics and economics at Waseda University.
Leaning to the Left and impacted by the February 28 Incident
At that time, socialism and communism were very popular at Waseda University and new waves of ideas about colonial liberation, the independence movement, and the Communist Third International were sweeping the world. Heavily influenced by these ideas, Su Beng devoted himself to fighting against the Japanese in China after he graduated in 1942, and also joined the Chinese Communist Party. He worked in China until returning to Taiwan in 1949.
Su Beng was in China when the February 28 Incident broke out in 1947. Although he was not directly impacted by the incident, the political turbulence in Taiwan laid the foundation for his belief in armed resistance against Chiang Kai-shek's regime. In 1949, disappointed with the Chinese Communist authorities and enraged by the military authoritarianism of Chiang Kai-shek's regime, Su Beng went back to Taiwan to launch a resistance operation targeted at the Chinese Nationalist government as he believed that only an armed revolution could bring down Chiang Kai-shek's regime and thus secure the independence of Taiwan. He went on to collect about 20 rifles and organized an armed corps, which resulted in him being wanted by the authorities. In 1952, Su Beng fled from Taiwan to Tokyo, Japan where he was granted political asylum by the Japanese government.
Starting again in Tokyo
After fleeing to Tokyo, Su Beng opened a Chinese restaurant called "New Gourmet," which not only became his livelihood, but also a means of providing (especially financial) support to social and political activists in Japan, the United States, and even Taiwan. In 1962, his book Taiwan's 400 Year History: The Origins and Continuing Development of the Taiwanese Society and People was published. In 1967, he founded the Taiwan Independence Association in Tokyo and propagated the vision that Taiwanese people should be masters of themselves. For anyone living during the martial law period in Taiwan or overseas, Su Beng's book was one of the most important channels for understanding Taiwan and the February 28 Incident. The book was also a major foundation of thought upon which Taiwanese identity was later developed.
Returning to Taiwan to broaden his activism
In 1987, the oppressive shackles of various laws and regulations had not been removed despite martial law having already been nominally lifted in Taiwan. As recently as in 1991, students were arrested by the police for reading Taiwan's 400 Year History: The Origins and Continuing Development of the Taiwanese Society and People and for joining in the Taiwan Independence Association. Su Beng himself was also arrested twice after he sneaked back to Taiwan in 1993. He was released on bail both times.
After moving back to Taiwan, Su Beng was often seen in various social movements. He also worked hard to expand the organization and enhance the capacity of his Taiwan Independence Association. He spared no effort in pursuing fairness and justice in Taiwanese society while vigorously employing non-violent resistance methods to promote the idea of building a Taiwanese nation-state. No matter whether Su Beng was living in exile or in his homeland, his thoughts on Taiwanese nationalism and the nation-building movement played a vital role in the formation of Taiwanese identity.
Su Beng is the tallest standing in the back.
Su Beng, who advocated Taiwanese nationalism, was a left-wing activist in the Taiwanese independence movement. The February 28 Incident and Chiang Kai-shek's military dictatorship had left him deeply dissatisfied with the regime. In 1950, he established the secret organization "Taiwan Independence Revolutionary Armed Force" to make preparations to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek when the opportunity arose. At the end of 1951, the failed plan to assassinate the dictator made him a wanted man of the regime, forcing him to flee to Japan, where he was granted political asylum by the Japanese government as an escaped political criminal in 1952. This was the beginning of the 41 years he spent in Japan as a wanted man in exile.
In 1993, the evening before he returned to Taiwan, Su Beng talked about Taiwanese nationalism and Taiwanese independence in Japan.
Su Beng with campaigners and the promotional vehicle of the Taiwan Independence Association in 1995. The photo was taken in front of the Pingtung County government building.