228 Peace Memorial Day is a Taiwanese public holiday that serves as a memorial event for the 228 Massacre.
|2019||28 Feb||Thu||228 Peace Memorial Day|
|1 Mar||Fri||228 Peace Memorial Day Holiday|
|2020||28 Feb||Fri||228 Peace Memorial Day|
228 Peace Memorial Day occurs on February 28th each year. The holiday is called 228 because of its translation into English from Chinese date format. In Mandarin, 228 is simply known as er er ba (二二八). 228 Peace Memorial Day honors all of the people that were murdered by Kuomintang military forces on February 27, 1947. The holiday is generally treated as a day of sadness and reflection.
The 228 Massacre is one of the largest atrocities that occurred in Taiwan. To fully understand the events that occurred in February of 1947, you need to know a bit about the conclusion of World War II.
During World War II, the island of Taiwan was controlled by the military forces of Japan. After Japan was defeated by the Allied Forces, Japan lost control of Taiwan. The Allied Forces ordered Japan to vacate the island. The Kuomintang was given control of Taiwan. There were many conflicts that occurred between the Kuomintang and the inhabitants of Taiwan.
During the first years of Kuomintang-ruled Taiwan, the government of the Republic of China implemented many policies that reduced the rights of Taiwanese citizens. The Kuomintang seized the private property of many citizens. Many of the productive resources of the Taiwanese economy were also placed under the control of the government. This overreach of government influence in the daily lives of Taiwanese citizens is what ultimately caused the unrest in Taiwan.
The unrest in Taiwan escalated severely on February 27th, 1947. At the Tianma Tea House in Taipei, the shop owner was found in possession with a large quantity of cigarettes. Since the Office of Tobacco Monopoly was established, private citizens could not sell tobacco products to customers. The shop owner felt that her rights were being violated, so she demanded the return of her cigarettes. The government officer who seized the cigarettes became frustrated by these demands. After the argument escalated, the government officer pointed a gun at the head of the shop owner. This was the last straw. Many bystanders, loyal customers of the shop owner, were present in the Tianma Tea House during this dispute. After seeing that the shop owner was threatened, the bystanders took action and rallied against the government officers. Greatly outnumbered, the government officers fled the tea house. On the street outside of the tea house, one of the protesters attempted to strike a government officer. The officer retaliated by shooting the protester. This first shot triggered thousands of people to join the protests.
The people of Taiwan peacefully assembled to demand greater involvement in the actions of the Republic of China. The government of the Republic of China refused to acknowledge any of the demands and ordered the protesters to disperse. After the protesters refused to disperse, the Kuomintang military entered Taipei to end the protests. Curfews were implemented, but these were mostly ignored by the protesters. The Kuomintang military eventually used deadly force to end the protests. The total number of deaths varies between 10,000 and 30,000 people. Violence also spread to other areas of Taiwan and Mainland China. The 228 Massacre marked the beginning of the White Terror period of Taiwan.
During the White Terror period, communists and non-Taiwanese people were targeted by the Kuomintang government. People who disagreed with Kuomintang nationalism were kidnapped or executed by police. During this time, the 228 Massacre was considered to be a taboo topic.
In 1995, President Lee Teng-hui spoke publicly about the atrocities that were committed by the Republic of China. This was the first time that a Taiwanese leader spoke about the 228 Massacre in public. Lee Teng-hui apologized on behalf of the government and stated that the people affected by the White Terror should be honored. He also declared that 228 Peace Memorial Day would be celebrated as a public holiday on February 28th each year.
Each year, the President of the Republic of China leads a special ceremony that honors the people who were affected by the 228 Massacre and the White Terror period. After giving a memorial speech, the president bows to the families of the affected.
228 Peace Memorial Day is a Taiwanese holiday of reflection that acknowledges the sacrifices made by people during the White Terror period of Taiwan.