On February 28, 1947, Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang military forces went on a rampage, shooting and killing demonstrators and bystanders in Taipeh, Taiwan (then Formosa). On that day and the days that followed, the KMT killed as many as 10,000 or more Taiwanese under the command of the governor, General Chen Yi.

This massacre was in response to protests of the often corrupt, repressive KMT occupation of Taiwan, which initially had been welcomed after the Japanese occupation. It was the single largest, but not the only such incident, prompting the institution of martial law ten days later. Martial law ended in Taiwan in 1987, but the KMT remained in power until the 2000 presidential election of the Democratic Progressive Party's Chen Shui-bian. The KMT remains a massive, often corrupt political force with vast holdings and ties in the private sector.

The origin of conflicts in Taiwan between Taiwanese born in Taiwan and immigrants to the country from Mainland China (known as wai shen ren) can be traced back to the "February 28 Incident," known to Taiwanese as 2-2-8 (and referred to by some as the 2-28 Massacre). Japan had ruled Taiwan for 50 years, after China lost the Sino-Japanese war, until the end of World War II. On October 24, 1945, Governor Chen Yi led the management teams of Governor's Office and Garrison Command and entered Taipei in an American military airplane from Shanghai. The next day at 10 A.M., the ceremony of "accepting surrender in Taiwan region of China war zone" was performed in Taipei Public Hall. After the ceremony, Governor Chen Yi made an announcement in a radio broadcasting: "From now on, Taiwan officially becomes the territory of China; all lands and residents are, therefore, under the jurisdiction of Nationalist government, the Republic of China (Kuomingtang regime)."

In the early stages of rule by the Kuomintang regime, soon after the KMT troops occupied Taiwan, the Taiwanese people became disappointed with the new leadership. The soldiers committed robberies and other delinquencies, and corruption and greed was rampant among the Kuomingtang officials. According to Dr. Kiyoshi Ito in his book, "Taiwan - 400 Years of History and Outlook," the events of February 28, 1947 began on the evening of February 27, 1947.

The discontent of many Taiwanese over the Chinese rule of the island that had been pent up finally erupted. Trouble broke out on Taiping Street, a Taiwanese shopping center along Tamsui River in Taipei and events of that night quickly developed into island-wide uprising, the "February 28 incident" which occurred only sixteen months after the Japanese surrender and Taiwan being returned to China.

The Governor's Office had made the sale of all tobacco products a government monopoly, and a major source of income. However, the high officials in Governor's Office were profiting from cigarette smuggling. The Taiwanese people had long been discontent because the government prosecuted only the retailers on the street and left the smugglers to conduct their business.

Following is how the trouble in Taiping street happened: On the evening of February 27, six investigators from the monopoly bureau including seized unauthorized cigarettes and money from Lin Chiang-mai, a middle-aged Taiwanese widow. Lin knelt down and begged for the return of money, but the investigators pistol-whipped her and she fell to the ground bleeding. The angry crowd started to attack the investigators, and the investigators fired upon the crowd as they fled, killing one on-looker. This further infuriated the crowd, who soon sieged the nearby police station and military police headquarters and demanded that the investigators be handed over to them, but they were refused.

The next day, on the morning of February 28, an angry crowd went to protest at the Taipei branch of the Monopoly Bureau, beating up the branch manager and three employees and burning the bureau's documents and furniture. In the afternoon, the crowd gathered at the open space in front of the Governor's Office to demonstrate their complaints and demand political reforms. The military police fired at the crowd with machine guns from the roof, and dozens of men were killed or wounded. The situation became so tense that all the stores in Taipei were closed. Factories and schools were also shut down, and thousands of citizens joined the protest while the city was in a state of unrest everywhere. The Garrison Command declared martial law, but the people occupied radio station, broadcasting the events to all of Taiwan.

By March 1, the incident had spread throughout the island. Uprisings started not only in the big cities, but also in local regions, where indignant citizens attacked government offices and police stations, beat up Mainlanders, venting their pent-up anger on the Kuomingtang regime. The military and police opened fire trying to suppress the demonstrators, but the situation had become uncontrollable. "People's Daily" had a critical comments of the Kuomingtang regime, pointing out that the incident was caused by "undisciplined, tyrannical and greedy government officials and soldiers."

Corrupt officials in the KMT regime used the rebellion as an opportunity to carry out the murders of any persons who were objectionable to the Kuomingtang. Many were arrested and condemned without public trial. Chen Yi published a "letter to the public with regards to country sweeping," in which he claimed: "in order to protect the good people, maintain the peace and thoroughly purge the villains, the government will carry out the country sweeping operation so as to eliminate a few rebels in hiding." According to the information released by the Kuomingtang regime later, about 28,000 people were slaughtered over a month in relation to the February 28 incident. These events which were brought about by a corrupt political regime and a people unwilling to suffer under it, are significant because they led to the conflict and tension which is present over the Formosa Strait between China and Taiwan, even today.

The suppression and killings of Taiwanese by the Kuomingtang regime incurred condemnation from the international community, especially severe criticism from the United States. Mr. Steward, the U.S. ambassador to China handed a "memorandum in regard to the situation in Taiwan" to Chiang Kai-shek, strongly protesting the KMT troops' inhumane violence in Taiwan. By that time, the Kuomingtang regime had increasing defeats in the civil war with the Chinese communists, and was in desperate need of American aid. Unable to disregard the opinion of the U.S., Chiang Kai-shek dismissed Chen Yi from his post on April 22, and summoned him to Nanking on May 1.

With the end of World War II, Communists, led by Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party resumed civil war. On October 1, 1949, the Communists in China emerged as the victors of the civil war, and took control over the mainland. Mao established the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing, and Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek moved his government to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.

Chiang Kai-shek came to Taiwan, set up the Republic of China (ROC) in Grass Mountain of Taipei, and from there, gave orders as the president of Kuomintang Party. Meanwhile, the United States government, which was the only hope of the Kuomintang, disappointed with the regime, published the "China White Paper" on August 5, 1949 in which it pointed out the Kuomintang regime's failure on the Chinese mainland due to its corruption and incompetence. It declared Kuomintang "a regime untrustworthy," and was prepared to abandon it. The Chinese communists declared the establishment of People's Republic of China, and the defeat of Kuomintang regime came to a decisive stage. The acting president, Li Tsung-jen fled to America, and the KMT made an announcement of relocating its government to Taiwan.

Both sides continued to insist that their government was the legitimate government for all of China. Even after moving to Taiwan, the Kuomintang regime refused to recognize the communist People's Republic of China, and resolutely held fast that Republic of China in Taiwan was the one and only China, and Kuomintang regime was the legitimate government. This is the origin of the concept of "Two Chinas" or "One China, One Taiwan." In 1971, however, Taiwan ROC lost its seat in the United Nations to the mainland government in Beijing, the PRC. The United States was the last major country to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

Under the circumstances, many native Taiwanese's hatred towards the Kuomintang regime and the Mainlanders continues to grow over the years. The will for Taiwan independence was awakened political movements, including the movement for Taiwan's independence, which were not permitted in Taiwan began to develop abroad. The recent election of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s candidate Chen Shui-bian as president of Taiwan after fifty years of KMT rule is one example of how the political climate is changing.

Still, the events of February 28, 1947 remain in the memories of the Taiwanese people. China's goal of reuinification of Taiwan with the mainland remains, but the events of the future are still uncertain.

Sources:
Cable News Network, "Taiwan: In China's shadow and in international spotlight," (http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9603/china_taiwan/07/background/index.html), March 1996.
Dr. Kiyoshi Ito, "Taiwan-400 Years of History and Outlook," (httpp://www.leksu.com/leksu-e.htm), April 1999.
Steven L. Spiegel and Fred L. Wehling, World Politics in a New Era, San Diego: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

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