Aboriginal peoples believed to be from Malaysia and Polynesia first inhabited Taiwan over 15,000 years ago.
The Spanish and Dutch also went to Taiwan, setting up trading posts on the island in the Seventeenth Century and bringing in the first Han Chinese, mostly the Hoklo and the Hakka peoples from China’s Fujien Province to work as plantation workers on the island. The Portuguese passed through Taiwan in the Sixteenth Century, naming it “Ilha Formosa” or “the beautiful island”.
In 1661, Cheng Chen-kung, a Ming dynasty loyalist, expelled the Europeans from the island and established his own rule over Taiwan in opposition to the imperial Manchurian rule in Mainland China.
In 1683, the Manchus defeated Cheng and assumed control over the island. For the next two centuries, there were frequent clashes between the local population and the officials sent from China.
In 1895 Manchurian China lost the Sino- Japanese War, and Taiwan was ceded to Japan.
The Taiwanese did not like the idea of Japanese rule however, and with the assistance of some disenchanted Manchu officials, declared independence and formed the Taiwan Republic on May 25, 1895. Although the Taiwan Republic was short-lived, crushed just a few days later by Japanese troops, it was the first independent republic in Asia.
For the next fifty years the inhabitants of Taiwan lived under Japanese colonial rule. The Taiwanese people were socialized to be Japanese.
In 1945, Japan lost World War II, and the Chinese Nationalists, (aka Kuomingtang KMT) under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, occupied Taiwan on behalf of the Allies.
At first, the Taiwanese welcomed their Chinese “brethren”, expecting a glorious and happy “return to the Motherland”. They were surprised to see the poorly equipped and unkempt appearance of the KMT soldiers, compared to the well- disciplined Japanese soldiers they were used to.
The government set up various Requisition Committees, which took over the Japanese government offices, enterprises and properties, as well as seized private enterprises and properties.
Many Taiwanese, who were used to the limited representative government and education under Japanese colonial rule, grew angry and disillusioned with the corruption of some KMT officials. One of many shooting incidents resulting from conflict between the Taiwanese and KMT.
228 二二八 Tensions between the KMT and local Taiwanese residents grew, and culminated in the February 28 Incident.
On February 27, 1947, Lin Jiang-Mai, a woman cigarette peddler, was confronted by agents of the Taiwan Tobacco Monopoly Board who demanded her to relinquish her supply of cigarettes and any money she had earned. Lin resisted the agents, who clubbed her over the head until she bled. The Trigger 事件導火線 Crowd gathered in front of the Taipei office of the Tobacco & Alcohol Monopoly Bureau
Nearby witnesses became enraged and demanded the agents to apologize. In the frenzy, gunshots were fired and a bystander was killed.
On February 28, 1947, a group of Taiwanese demonstrators gathered in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, demanding reforms after the fatal police brutality incident the day before.
The demonstrators were met with machine-gun bullets, initiating island-wide riots and confrontations between the Taiwanese people and the Kuomingtang Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and other Mainlanders.
For a few days, local gentry and students managed to maintain social order and negotiated with the Chinese administration to stop the random killings and arrests.
Meanwhile Governor Chen Yi requested the dispatch of additional soldiers from China, while feigning a desire for peaceful negotiations with the Taiwanese representatives.
On March 6, local Taiwanese leaders in Kaohsiung were invited to negotiate with General Peng Mong-chi. Upon arrival at his military base, however, they were arrested and 3 out of 7 were immediately executed. His troops, armed with machine guns, proceeded to raid the city and shoot anybody in the streets. General Peng Mong-chi
On March 8th, 1947, Chinese reinforcement troops arrived at Taiwan on US transport ships.
The KMT government took this opportunity to kill off the most educated and prominent Taiwanese elite in order to prevent future uprisings.
Tens of thousands died in the subsequent months.
Taiwanese students, educators, doctors, laborers, farmers, bankers, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, police officers, and elected representatives were arrested, tortured, mutilated, and executed.
Thousands of others were arrested and imprisoned in the "White Terror" campaign that took place in the following decade.
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were killed. For decades, no one dared to mention anything regarding 228.
Nevertheless, the February 28 Incident is an important turning point in Taiwan’s history and the memory lives on.
Reconciliation Commemoration Reconstruction 228 Memorial
In honor of all those who suffered and died... May we never forget…