We Must Bear Witness
By Iun Chong Chhiong
World United Formosans for Independence, USA
Fellow Taiwanese and Friends of Taiwan:
We’ve just watched the horrible and cruel massacre of Taiwanese leaders executed by Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalist Chinese Regime fifty-five years ago. Every Taiwanese man gives his life for what he believes. Every Taiwanese woman gives her life for what she believes.
It is my honor to share with you my personal experience from the 2-28 Massacre.
I was born as a Taiwanese under Japanese colonial control in Taiwan. Growing up, we spoke Taiwanese at home. But at school, we were forced to speak only Japanese. If we spoke Taiwanese at school, Japanese teachers would hit us with a wooded sword right on the head to prevent us from conversing in our native tongue.
By the end of World Warr II in 1945, Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered Chiang Kai-Shek from China to occupy Taiwan on behalf of the Allied Powers. There was a shift and Taiwanese were forced by Chinese to speak only Chinese at school. However, when we were at home, we still spoke Taiwanese. If we spoke Taiwanese or Japanese at school, Chinese teachers would spank us with the bamboo sticks. Through these experiences in school, this is how we learned to speak Japanese and Chinese.
I was eleven-year old in 1947, a fifth grader. My oldest brother was 17-year old. He was in high school. We lived in Taichung, a city at the center of Taiwan.
One day in early March 1947, my oldest brother rushed home with rifles and grenades. Accompanied with him were his high school, junior high and college friends. They patrolled with a military truck throughout the city to protect Taiwanese and kept the city in good order. They armed themselves with rifles and grenades and had had the military training prior to 1945 under Japanese. They were Gaktoubei (student-soldiers).
I recalled in 1946 that whenever my brother got together with high school friends, they loved to take the group pictures. It was a fatal mistake.
By the end of March 1947, my brother’s friends were arrested one by one by the military policemen according to their group pictures. Most of them were executed within a week in public by the firing squad. My brother escaped the massacre by hiding in the deep forest for five years. This was common amongst the survivors of the massacre.
I’d want to tell you about an American, Prof. George Kerr. He taught English in Taipei from 1937 to 1940. He left Taiwan prior to Japanese Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 then returned to Taipei as Consul of the American Consulate from 1945 to 1947.
Mr. Edward Paine, another American, was the Reports Officer for the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) Office in Taipei, 1947.
On February 28, 1947, George Kerr had been lunching with Taiwanese friends nearby the Round Park. He heard the rattle of machine-gun fire occurring from the Chinese against innocent Taiwanese. At that moment Edward Paine, his friend, drove his jeep to a position between the Governor’s guard and the crowd. He leaped out the jeep and signaled the soldiers to stand off. He checked the six bodies and found that two showed signs of life. He summoned help and sent the wounded men off to a nearby hospital. Fifty years later I discovered that Dr. Samuel Chou, well-known neurologist, was one of the students helping to carry the wounded men.
From this experience, George Kerr and Edward Paine left Taiwan in 1947 and settled in Seattle to write their book, Formosa Betrayed that disclosed some facts from the 2-28 massacre. The book was completed in 1955. However, George Kerr held the book for ten years and published it in 1965. George Kerr’s decision angered Edward Paine.
When “Formosa Betrayed” was published in 1965, Chiang Kai-Shek immediately bought the English copy right from the publisher. Chiang just wanted to prevent the book from further publishing. Fortunately, the United Formosans in America for Independence bought the Chinese copy right directly from George Kerr and published the Chinese edition in 1973.
I was fortunate enough to have met Edward Paine in Grass Valley, California in 1987. For the following ten years, we met Mr. Paine many times at his home. By January 1998, Edward Paine was very ill. He disclosed that he had kept a special medical book from Taipei for fifty-one years.
The story was on March 2, 1947, a Taiwanese medical doctor brought a dum-dum bullet to the American Consulate in Taipei. George Kerr was in the office, too. On the previous afternoon this random shot, fired by a passing patrol, had entered the doctor’s office and lodged in a heavy medical volume on the clinic shelf. Imagine the ghastly damage such a bullet could inflict on soft human flesh.
Would the American consulate please lodge protest with the proper authorities? The use of dum-dum bullets was outlawed by international agreements. Here were the book and the bullet, evidence that the Nationalist troops were using them.
The American Consul took the position that this unfortunate incident was strictly an affair between two Chinese troops; the United States had no reason to take official observation of trouble between a provincial governor and his people.
The doctor and his friends took the book with dum-dum bullet to the UNRRA offices. Mr. Edward Paine was there. The doctor left the book with dum-dum bullet there in safekeeping with a request that it be sent to the United Nations as evidence of the lawlessness of the Nationalist Chinese regime. However, the UNRRA Office had no regular channels through which to raise such an issue with the international organization at New York.
Mr. Edward Paine took the book with dum-dum bullet and left Taiwan in 1947. He had kept the book for fifty-one years by the time he disclosed it in 1998. He expressed that he would donate the book with only one condition: let the world see it.
I immediately phoned Mr. Iap, Phok-bun, Director of Taipei 2-28 Memorial Museum to arrange for a proper exhibition inside the Museum. On February 28, 1998 in a publicly held ceremony at the Museum with thousand of audience, I, on behalf of Mr. Edward Paine, delivered the book with the dum-dum bullet to the Taipei City Mayor, Mr. Chen Shui-bian, current President of Taiwan.
I informed my completion of the mission to Edward Paine. He was very moved.
He passed away August 1998 at age 79. I missed him dearly.
In January of 1992, I went to Honolulu, Hawaii to visit George Kerr when he was in the hospital. He passed away in August 1992 at age 81. I greatly appreciated Mr. George Kerr for his contributions to our work on building Taiwan as a nation.
As we commemorate the 2-28 Massacre here tonight, I love to share with you my thoughts of the true meaning of more than 20,000 Taiwanese leaders lost their lives.
1. Quotation from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
For the dead and for the living, we must bear witness.
We can forgive but we shall not forget the 2-28 Massacre. We commemorate 2-28 Massacre annually to remind the world that no any group of people shall do it again.
2. The whole generation of Taiwanese leaders was wiped out completely by the Nationalist Chinese regime.
We shall not just concentrate in trying to distinguish of who were the victims and who were the murderers. Instead, we shall understand that for what course our leaders sacrificed their lives. They wanted Taiwan be of Taiwanese, by Taiwanese and for Taiwanese.
At the time in 1945, Taiwanese tended to think of themselves as possessed of traditions, values, and way of life distinct from that of the Chinese. The emergence of Taiwanese nationalism is thus a natural development, and despite the many obstacles existing in Taiwanese political circles, that movement strikes a responsive chord, especially among the intellectuals.
It’s the responsibility of the new younger generation to carry the torch toward the building of Taiwan as a nation.
3. Taiwanese Identity is the key for building our Taiwan nation.
Taiwan was extremely productive in coal, rice, cement, fruits and tea by 1945. Both hydro and thermal powers were abundant. The Japanese had efficiently electrified even remote areas and also established excellent railroad lines and highways. Eighty percent of the people in Taiwan could read and write.
Taiwanese leaders at that time did not proactively and openly identified their Taiwanese nationalism. They missed the great opportunity to establish Taiwan as a nation.
Today, what is the name of our country? How long can the Taiwanese be excluded from any effective voice in the international political arena?
If people in Taiwan identify themselves as Taiwanese and the government identifies as Taiwan, it would be impossible to ignore Taiwan’s cases.
The choice is ours. Taiwanese identity is the key to success.
Fellow Taiwanese and Friends of Taiwan:
Name of the Country: Taiwan
Chen Shui-bian: President of Taiwan
We are not afraid of tomorrow, for we have seen yesterday and we love today!