Thursday, June 16, 2016
National 2-28 Memorial Park
Ererba (二二八, “two, two, eight”) was “the darkest page in [Taiwan's] modern history,” according to this recent article by Linda van der Horst in The Diplomat. What's known in English as the February 28 Incident actually began on February 27, 1947 when a widow selling contraband cigarettes in central Taipei was accosted by government agents. When bystanders came to her aid, a shot was fired and a man died. Van der Horst's description of what followed is succinct and fair: 'That unleashed the wrath of the Taiwanese, who were unhappy with widespread suppression by and malfeasance of the newly arrived KMT rulers. Chiang Kai-shek launched a crackdown on February 28, 1947 that lasted for weeks and saw up to 28,000 civilian casualties (although the official number has not been confirmed). The [massacres were] the prelude to the era of White Terror from 1949 until martial law lifted in 1987, when dissidents and intellectuals were imprisoned or executed to assert KMT rule over the island.'
As news of the shooting on February 27 spread, government offices in various parts of Taiwan were attacked and ransacked. Mainland Chinese civilians, who were easy to pick out because of their different accents, were assaulted and in some cases murdered. With the local KMT-installed leaders set back on their heels, Taiwanese professionals in urban areas saw an opportunity to express grievances and demand reforms. However, as soon as Nationalist reinforcements arrived, Chiang's regime gave no quarter. In the wake of the incident, up to 80% of city- and county-level elites 'disappeared from the political field' (to use the words of a report produced for the government-backed 2-28 Memorial Foundation). In the years that followed, around 140,000 people were detained, and some were imprisoned for more than two decades.
Repression was especially bad in and around Chiayi, so it's hardly surprising the city was chosen as the site of the National 2-28 Memorial Park (二二八國家紀念公園). Its suburban location means few outsiders come here, but the site at Liucuo (劉厝, spelled Liutso on information panels inside the park) was chosen for a reason. Atrocities took place here in early March 1947 after Nationalist forces holed up inside the nearby air base (nowadays Chiayi's dual-use military-civilian facility) received information that anti-government rebels were hiding in the community. At least 300 people died during several days of violence.
While the park, which was dedicated in late 2011, isn't as educational as the well-known 2-28 museum in Taipei, it is a worthy monument to those who died. The profiles of notable victims, such as renowned painter Chen Cheng-po (陳澄波; monument pictured above), make for sobering reading.
The park, which is located between Dafu Road (大富路) and Dagui Road (大貴路), never closes. The indoor exhibitions area is open Wednesday to Sunday, 9:30am to 4:30pm. According to Google Maps, it's 3.6km from Chiayi TRA Station and 13.4km from Chiayi HSR Station. If you're coming from the latter, you may as well also visit the National Palace Museum Southern Branch.