Apr 20, 2007

Taiwan: Fostering Reconciliation

In a speech yesterday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on the people of Taiwan to face their painful history if they are to embrace reconciliation regarding the 1947 uprising in which thousands were killed.

Below is an article published by Business Day:

Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu today [19 April 2007] called on the people of Taiwan to face their painful history if they are to heal the wounds caused by a 1947 uprising in which thousands were massacred.


Tutu’s visit comes as the island grapples with the legacy of Chiang [Kai-shek] who is accused of gross human rights abuses during his long and authoritarian rule which ended with his death in 1975.

While calling for forgiveness for the perpetrators, Tutu said “that’s not the end of the whole question."

“The question is how do you make up for the pain, suffering and loss,” the South African cleric said after meeting with families of some of the people killed in the event 60 years ago.

“You really are not going to have a proper country until you deal with your past,” Tutu said during a trip to a Taipei park in memory of the victims of the February 28 massacre known as "2-28 Incident” in Taipei.

The incident, the root cause of islanders’ lingering hatred towards the KMT, was sparked when a KMT inspector beat a woman vendor in Taipei for selling untaxed cigarettes. The incident triggered riots across Taiwan which were crushed, according to an official report, by troops sent from the mainland by Chiang, who was then leader of China’s Nationalist government.

An official report put the estimated death toll at between 18 000 and 28 000. Chiang fled to Taiwan in 1949 after his forces lost a civil war to communist forces led by Mao Zedong.

The massacre remained taboo for decades. It was not until 1995 that then president Lee Teng-hui made the first official apology, and parliament agreed on compensation and made February 28 a national holiday.

The anniversary has only been officially observed since 1998. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which swept the KMT from power in 2000, claims that a number of problems including human rights abuses committed under the authoritarian rule of the former KMT government remain unsolved.

[...] President Chen Shui-bian has ordered an in-depth investigation into the event, saying “without truth, there will not be reconciliation."

However, the KMT says the DPP is trying to foment hatred between islanders and mainlanders who fled to Taiwan with the KMT at the end of the civil war.

Tutu will meet with President Chen and Vice President Annette Lu during his trip. He will also meet with former political dissidents and give a speech to a symposium on transitional justice and national reconciliation.

Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, headed SA’s [South Africa’s] post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.