February 28 incident

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February 28 incident
228 Incident h.jpg
People gathered in front of the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau on February 28, 1947
Native name 二二八事件
DateFebruary 28, 1947 (1947-02-28)
TypeAnti-government uprising
CauseHighhanded and frequently corrupt conduct on the part of the Kuomintang
OutcomeMartial law declared, beginning of White Terror
Armed soldiers as seen in Tainan by Dr. M. Ottsen, who served for the United Nations 228 Massacre01.jpg
Armed soldiers as seen in Tainan by Dr. M. Ottsen, who served for the United Nations
Woodcut The Terrible Inspection by Huang Rong-can 228 by Li Jun.jpg
Woodcut The Terrible Inspection by Huang Rong-can

The February 28 incident or the February 28 massacre, also known as the 228 (or 2/28) incident (from Chinese :二二八事件; pinyin :Èr’èrbā shìjiàn), was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government, which killed thousands of civilians beginning on February 28, 1947. The number of Taiwanese deaths from the incident and massacre was estimated to be between 5,000 and 28,000. [1] [2] The massacre marked the beginning of the White Terror, in which tens of thousands of other Taiwanese went missing, died or were imprisoned. The incident is one of the most important events in Taiwan's modern history and was a critical impetus for the Taiwan independence movement. [3]


In 1945, following the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, the Allies handed administrative control of Taiwan to the Republic of China (ROC), thus ending 50 years of Japanese colonial rule. Local inhabitants became resentful of what they saw as highhanded and frequently corrupt conduct on the part of the Kuomintang (KMT) authorities, including arbitrary seizure of private property, economic mismanagement, and exclusion from political participation. The flashpoint came on February 27, 1947 in Taipei, when agents of the State Monopoly Bureau struck a Taiwanese widow suspected of selling contraband cigarettes. An officer then fired into a crowd of angry bystanders, striking one man who died the next day. [4] Soldiers fired upon demonstrators the next day, after which a radio station was seized and news of the revolt was broadcast to the entire island. As the uprising spread, the KMT-installed governor Chen Yi called for military reinforcements, and the uprising was violently put down by the National Revolutionary Army. For the following 38 years, the island was placed under martial law in a period that would be known as the White Terror. [4]

During the White Terror, the KMT persecuted perceived political dissidents, and the incident was considered too taboo to be discussed. President Lee Teng-hui became the first president to discuss the incident publicly on its anniversary in 1995. The event is now openly discussed and details of the event have become the subject of government and academic investigation. February 28 is now an official public holiday called Peace Memorial Day, on which the president of Taiwan gathers with other officials to ring a commemorative bell in memory of the victims. Monuments and memorial parks to the victims of 2/28 have been erected in a number of Taiwanese cities. In particular, Taipei's former Taipei New Park was renamed 228 Peace Memorial Park, and the National 228 Memorial Museum was opened on February 28, 1997. The Kaohsiung Museum of History also has a permanent exhibit detailing the events of the 228 Incident in Kaohsiung. [5] [6] In 2019, the Transitional Justice Commission exonerated those who were convicted in the aftermath. [7]

February 28 incident
Chinese 二二八事件
February 28 Massacre
Traditional Chinese 二二八大屠殺
Simplified Chinese 二二八大屠杀


Cover of the first issue of Taiwan Literature Magazine (
Tai Wan Wen Yi ; Taiwan wenyi) printed in 1934, during Japanese rule Taiwan Literature Magazine.jpg
Cover of the first issue of Taiwan Literature Magazine (臺灣文藝; Táiwān wényì) printed in 1934, during Japanese rule
"Chinese Exploit Formosa Worse Than Japs Did", a news article from The Washington Daily News on March 21, 1946 Washington Daily Taiwan 1946.jpg
"Chinese Exploit Formosa Worse Than Japs Did", a news article from The Washington Daily News on March 21, 1946

During the 50 years of Japanese rule in Taiwan (1895–1945), Taiwan experienced economic development and an increased standard of living, serving as a supply base for the Japanese main islands. [8] After World War II, Taiwan was placed under the administrative control of the Republic of China to provide stability until a permanent arrangement could be made. Chen Yi, the Governor-General of Taiwan, arrived on October 24, 1945, and received the last Japanese governor, Ando Rikichi, who signed the document of surrender on the next day. Chen Yi then proclaimed the day as Retrocession Day to make Taiwan part of the Republic of China.

Severe inflation led the Bank of Taiwan to issue of bearer's checks in denominations of 1 million Taiwan Dollars (TW$1,000,000) in 1949. Taiwan-1M-Yuan.jpg
Severe inflation led the Bank of Taiwan to issue of bearer's checks in denominations of 1 million Taiwan Dollars (TW$1,000,000) in 1949.

Taiwanese perceptions of the Japanese rule were more positive than perceptions in other parts of East and Southeast Asia. [9] Despite this, the Kuomintang troops from Mainland China were initially welcomed by the Taiwanese. Their harsh conduct and the KMT maladministration quickly led to Taiwanese discontent during the immediate postwar period. As Governor-General, Chen Yi took over and sustained the Japanese system of state monopolies in tobacco, sugar, camphor, tea, paper, chemicals, petroleum refining, mining and cement, the same way the Nationalists treated people in other former Japanese-controlled areas (earning Chen Yi the nickname "robber" (劫收)). [10] He confiscated some 500 Japanese-owned factories and mines, and homes of former Japanese residents. Economic mismanagement led to a large black market, runaway inflation and food shortages. Many commodities were compulsorily bought cheaply by the KMT administration and shipped to Mainland China to meet the Civil War shortages where they were sold at very high profit furthering the general shortage of goods in Taiwan. The price of rice rose to 100 times its original value between the time the Nationalists took over to the spring of 1946, increasing to nearly four times the price in Shanghai. It inflated further to 400 times the original price by January 1947. [11] Carpetbaggers from Mainland China dominated nearly all industry, as well as political and judicial offices, displacing the Taiwanese who were formerly employed. Many of the ROC garrison troops were highly undisciplined, looting, stealing and contributing to the overall breakdown of infrastructure and public services. [12] Because the Taiwanese elites had met with some success with self-government under Japanese rule, they had expected the same system from the incoming ruling Chinese Nationalist Government. However, the Chinese Nationalists opted for a different route, aiming for the centralization of government powers and a reduction in local authority. The KMT's nation-building efforts followed this ideology because of unpleasant experiences with the centrifugal forces during the Warlord Era in 1916–1928 that had torn the government in China. Mainland Communists were even preparing to bring down the government like the Ili Rebellion. [13] The different goals of the Nationalists and the Taiwanese, coupled with cultural and language misunderstandings served to further inflame tensions on both sides.

Uprising and crackdown

Today's 228 Memorial Museum in Taipei is housed in a broadcast station that played a role in the incident. Taipei 228 Memorial Museum 20050629.jpg
Today's 228 Memorial Museum in Taipei is housed in a broadcast station that played a role in the incident.
"Terror In Formosa", a news article from The Daily News of Perth, reported the status in March. Terror In Formosa (The Daily News, Perth, 1947).jpg
"Terror In Formosa", a news article from The Daily News of Perth, reported the status in March.
Angry residents storm the Yidingmu police station in Taipei on February 28, 1947 228 Incident g.jpg
Angry residents storm the Yidingmu police station in Taipei on February 28, 1947
Painter and Professor Chen Cheng-po was killed in Chiayi Chen Chengpo nd.jpg
Painter and Professor Chen Cheng-po was killed in Chiayi
Medical doctor and Taipei City Councilor Huang Chao-sheng lost and murdered in Taipei Er Er Ba Shi Jian Hou Zao Guo Min Dang Zheng Fu Sha Hai De Tai Bei Shi Can Yi Hui Yi Yuan Huang Zhao Sheng Yi Shi Taiwanese Doctor & Taipei City Councilor Huang Chao-sheng who murdered by the KMT government in the 1947 228 Incident.jpg
Medical doctor and Taipei City Councilor Huang Chao-sheng lost and murdered in Taipei

On the evening of February 27, 1947, a Tobacco Monopoly Bureau enforcement team in Taipei went to the district of Taiheichō  [ zh ] (太平町), Twatutia (Dadaocheng in Mandarin), where they confiscated contraband cigarettes from a 40-year-old widow named Lin Jiang-mai (林江邁) at the Tianma Tea House. When she demanded their return, one of the men struck her in the head with the butt of his rifle, [4] prompting the surrounding Taiwanese crowd to challenge the Tobacco Monopoly agents. As they fled, one agent shot his gun into the crowd, hitting a bystander who died the next day. The crowd, which had already been harboring feelings of frustration from unemployment, inflation and corruption toward the Nationalist government, reached its breaking point. The crowd protested to both the police and the gendarmes, but were mostly ignored. [14]

Protesters gathered the next morning around Taipei, calling for the arrest and trial of the agents involved in the previous day's shooting, and eventually made their way to the Governor General's Office, where security forces tried to disperse the crowd. Soldiers opened fire into the crowd, killing at least three. [15] Formosans took over the administration of the town and military bases on March 4 and forced their way into local radio station to broadcast news of the incident and calling for people to revolt, causing uprisings to erupt throughout the island. [16] [17] By evening, martial law had been declared and curfews were enforced by the arrest or shooting of anyone who violated curfew.

For several weeks after the February 28 incident, the Taiwanese civilians controlled much of Taiwan. The initial riots were spontaneous and somewhat violent, with mainland Chinese sometimes receiving beatings from Taiwanese. Within a few days the Taiwanese were generally coordinated and organized, and public order in Taiwanese-held areas was upheld by volunteer civilians organized by students, and unemployed former Japanese army soldiers. Local leaders formed a Settlement Committee, which presented the government with a list of 32 Demands for reform of the provincial administration. They demanded, among other things, greater autonomy, free elections, the surrender of the ROC Army to the Settlement Committee, and an end to government corruption. [17] Motivations among the various Taiwanese groups varied; some demanded greater autonomy within the ROC, while others wanted UN trusteeship or full independence. [18] The Taiwanese also demanded representation in the forthcoming peace treaty negotiations with Japan, hoping to secure a plebiscite to determine the island's political future.

Outside of Taipei, there were examples of the formation of local militas such as the 27 Brigade near Taichung. In Chiayi, the mayor's residence was set fire to and local militias fought with the military police. [19]

The Nationalist Government, under Chen Yi, stalled for time while it waited for reinforcements from Fujian. Upon their arrival on March 8, the ROC troops launched a crackdown. The New York Times reported, "An American who had just arrived in China from Taihoku said that troops from the mainland China arrived there on March 7 and indulged in three days of indiscriminate killing and looting. For a time everyone seen on the streets was shot at, homes were broken into and occupants killed. In the poorer sections the streets were said to have been littered with dead. There were instances of beheadings and mutilation of bodies, and women were raped, the American said." [20]

By the end of March, Chen Yi had ordered the imprisonment or execution of the leading Taiwanese organizers he could identify. His troops reportedly executed, according to a Taiwanese delegation in Nanjing, between 3,000 and 4,000 people throughout the island. The exact number is still undetermined, as only 300 Taiwanese families applied for another compensation as recently as 1990. [21] Detailed records kept by the KMT have been reported as "lost". Some of the killings were random, while others were systematic. Taiwanese elites were among those targeted, and many of the Taiwanese who had formed self-governing groups during the reign of the Japanese were also victims of the 228 incident. A disproportionate number of the victims were Taiwanese high school students. Many had recently served in the Imperial Japanese Army, having volunteered to serve to maintain order. [17]

Some Taiwan political organizations participated in the uprising, for example Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, was announced "communist" and illegal. Many members were arrested and executed. Some of these organizations had to move to Hong Kong. [22]


Today, a memorial plaque marks the exact location where the first shot was fired The-Flash-Point-of-the-February-28-Incident stele 20040402.jpg
Today, a memorial plaque marks the exact location where the first shot was fired
228 Memorial Day, 2008 in Liberty Square Tai Wan Xiang Qian Xing atZi You Guang Chang 2-28 Memorial Day, 2008 in front of the Square for Freedom in TAIWAN.jpg
228 Memorial Day, 2008 in Liberty Square
228 Memorial Park in Taichung Tai Wan Tai Zhong Xian Da Li Er Er Ba Ji Nian Bei 228 Memorial Park in Taichung, TAIWAN.jpg
228 Memorial Park in Taichung
President Ma Ying-jeou addresses the families of the victims of the 228 Incident Ma Ying-jeou with 228 (2).jpg
President Ma Ying-jeou addresses the families of the victims of the 228 Incident
Former Vice President Annette Lu, once a political prisoner, speaking at the 228 Memorial Taiwan Vice-President Annette Lu (Lu Xiu Lian Fu Zong Tong ) gives a speech at the 228 Memorial in Taipei.jpg
Former Vice President Annette Lu, once a political prisoner, speaking at the 228 Memorial

The initial 228 purge was followed by 38 years of martial law, commonly referred to as the "White Terror," which lasted until the end of 1987, during which over a 100,000 people were imprisoned for political reasons [23] of which over 1,000 were executed. [24] During this time, discussion of the incident was taboo. [25]

The government hoped that the execution of Governor Chen Yi and financial compensation for the victims had quelled resentment. In the 1970s, the 228 Justice and Peace Movement was initiated by several citizens' groups to ask for a reversal of this policy, and, in 1992, the Executive Yuan promulgated the "February 28 Incident Research Report." [26] Then-President and KMT-chairman Lee Teng-hui, who had participated in the incident and was arrested as an instigator and a Communist sympathizer, made a formal apology on behalf of the government in 1995 and declared February 28 a day to commemorate the victims. [27] Among other memorials erected, Taipei New Park was renamed 228 Memorial Park.

Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, the government has set up the 228 Incident Memorial Foundation, a civilian reparations fund supported by public donations for the victims and their families. Many descendants of victims remain unaware that their family members were victims, while many of the families of victims from Mainland China did not know the details of their relatives' mistreatment during the riot.[ citation needed ] Those who have received compensation more than two times are demanding trials of the still-living soldiers and officials who were responsible for the summary executions and deaths of their loved ones.

Prior to the 228 massacre, many Taiwanese hoped for a greater autonomy from China. The failure of conclusive dialogue with the ROC administration in early March, combined with the feelings of betrayal felt towards the government and China in general are widely believed to have catalyzed today's Taiwan independence movement and subsequently the Taiwan Name Rectification Campaign after democratization. [17]

On February 28, 2004, thousands of Taiwanese participated in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally. They formed a 500-kilometer (310 mi) long human chain from Taiwan's northernmost city to its southern tip to commemorate the 228 incident, to call for peace, and to protest the People's Republic of China's deployment of missiles aimed at Taiwan along the coast of Taiwan Strait.

In 2006, the Research Report on Responsibility for the 228 Massacre was released after several years of research. The 2006 report was not intended to overlap with the prior (1992) 228 Massacre Research Report commissioned by the Executive Yuan. Chiang Kai-shek is specifically named as bearing the largest responsibility in the 2006 report. [28] However, some hardline academics have tried to confuse these conclusions, stating the departing Japanese colonial government was responsible by creating food shortages and causing inflation. [29]

In 1990, Taiwan's Executive Yuan set up a task force to investigate the 2/28 Incident. The Report of the 228 Incident was published in 1992, and a memorial was set up in 1995 at the 2/28 Peace Park in Taipei. In October 1995, the state-funded Memorial Foundation of 228 was initially established to distribute compensation and award rehabilitation certificates to 228 Incident victims in order to restore their reputation. [30] Family members of dead and missing victims are eligible for NT$6 million (approximately US$190,077). [31] Compensation application trial statistics, according to Memorial Foundation of 228 (www.228.org.tw), almost 24 years later, as of June 25, 2019: [32]


A number of artists in Taiwan have addressed the subject of the 2–28 incident since the taboo was lifted on the subject in the early 1990s. [33] The incident has been the subject of music by Fan-Long Ko and Tyzen Hsiao and a number of literary works.


Hou Hsiao-hsien's A City of Sadness , the first movie dealing with the events, won the Golden Lion at the 1989 Venice Film Festival. [34] The 2009 thriller Formosa Betrayed also relates the incident as part of the motivation behind Taiwan independence activist characters.


Shawna Yang Ryan's novel, Green Island (2016) (Knopf) tells the story of the incident as it affects three generations of a Taiwanese family. [35]

Julie Wu's novel, The Third Son (2013) (Algonquin) describes the event and its aftermath from the viewpoint of a Taiwanese boy. [36]

Jennifer Chow's novel, The 228 Legacy (2013) (Martin Sisters Publishing), brings to light the emotional ramifications for those who lived through the events yet suppressed their knowledge out of fear. It focuses on how there was such an impact that it permeated throughout multiple generations within the same family. [37]


Taiwanese metal band Chthonic's album Mirror of Retribution makes several lyrical references to the 228 massacre.

See also

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