Sunday, July 19, 2009

Previously Unrevealed 2-28 Account

Here is an account of 2-28 written by a missionary who witnessed it. It surfaced when Canadian scholar, missionary, and longtime Taiwan activist Michael Stainton was searching through the papers of George Leslie Mackay, the famous missionary here. Dr. Stainton was kind enough to forward it to me for posting here. Without further ado:


Dear Dr Cameron,

Though most of the news in this you have probably heard already, I thought it would interest you – especially as it comes from a Mainlander. The writer was for years a marine advisor in the principal Chinese ports.

With Kind regards, Margaret Mackay
North Pacific. April 14, 1947.

(Letter received from an English seaman(1) of wide experience in China, who has just returned from Formosa where he was during the recent trouble.)

I was in Taipeh a couple of weeks back and met your folks(2). There was a perfectly justified uprising of the Formosans against Chinese oppression while I was there and mail and communication with the outside world was liable to censorship. The Chinese want only their version of the affair to reach the press. Your folks therefore asked if I would drop you a line giving a review of the goings on. I will try. It’s all from memory (scared to make notes in the event of a search) so if I ramble, please excuse.

After the Jap surrender the Formosans genuinely gave the Chinese an enthusiastic welcome and were keen and eager to make a go of things under Chinese Rule. Due to graft corruption etc. the Formosans were soon to be disillusioned and bitterness for the Chinese rulers took the place of the previous enthusiasm. The Chinese made no attempt to develop the island or trade or export or industry or anything at all. Their whole purpose seems to have been to loot. They merely took over the posts and businesses vacated by the Japs and carried on Jap system except that the Jap had method but the Chinese did not. Chinese from the mainland swarmed over the Island to pick up all the choice plums and they got priority while the native citizens were left out in the cold and told to go chase themselves. Time came when feelings ran so high that it only needed a smaller incident to act as a match and the smouldering fires would burst into flame. On February 28 the storm burst.

One of the Chinese Tobacco Monopoly Police clubbed an old widow to death for selling cigarettes at a small stall near the Taipeh Railway Station. A crowd began protesting to the Police and one of them was shot. The crowd then moved (angry but orderly) to Headquarters to protest and more of the crowd were shot. Their feelings then got the upper hand (one cannot blame them) and they yanked Chinese officials from their offices and beat them up. Some of the officials didn’t live. The money and cigarettes found in the Tobacco Monopoly Headquarters was taken into the street and burned. (This was their way of indicating they were not out for loot or individual gain). After these goings on the crowd quietened down somewhat and things most likely would have returned to normal but the following day there was more gunplay by the Chinese. Two students asked for information at the Railway Station having planed to go home on holiday as the schools had closed. They were shot dead. A demonstration (orderly) approached the Government Headquarters to protest these outrages and had machine guns turned on them. This proved the last straw and Taipeh cam completely under Formosan control for the time being.

The day after the machine gunning a representation approached the Governor with a list of demands: - That the trigger happy police be relieved of their arms and troops confined to barracks temporarily. That in future Mayors and other aspirants to high public office be voted in by the people and not appointed indiscriminately, etc. etc., all of them of a sensible nature and drawn up with a view to benefiting the Island as a whole. The Governor listened to their pleas and asked that a 10 day interval be agreed upon for him to study the list, then a meeting would be held with both parties represented and the matter gone into thoroughly. It was also arranged that the students maintain peace in the city during the interval and that they be armed in order to deal with any bad characters who might take advantage of the disturbed conditions. Unknown to the Formosans he had already or was about to send for more troops from the Mainland. The above arrangements worked successfully and the city resumed its normal routine.

At 10 p.m. on the 8th March (also the 8th day of the 10 agreed upon) rifle and machine gun fire broke out simultaneously in different parts of the city. The troops had arrived and began shooting up anything and anyone. The shooting was quite indiscriminate and without warning. At first it was heavy but later relapsed into intermittent bursts as the prowling troops went in search of human targets. It was kept up for a few days and goodness knows how many deaths there were. I would say that the deaths ran into thousands. In addition to he shootings lots of citizens were arrested on the most flimsy evidence and I am afraid few of them still live.

One of those arrested you may know or know of, Lien Tong(3). I often heard your parents speak of him. He was called out by the soldiery on some trumped up charge of collaboration and was unable to understand the language spoken by the soldiers. One of the school teachers (Lien Tong I gather was the School Principal) came out to act as interpreter but was promptly shot down(4). When I left Taipeh it had not been established whether or not Lien Tong still lived. Replies to enquiries said he had been taken to Keelung for Trial, plus the suggestion that another principal be obtained. Looks grim.

The students who maintained the peace in the city were asked to return the arms loaned them for that purpose and were then liquidated. About 20 were executed a short distance along the Tamsui Rd. west of the Mission College.

After one mass killing at Keelung the bodies were taken out to sea and dumped. The tide turned and brought them back into the Harbour again. The Chinese version which is the one that reached the outside world was: - Communist elements had been eliminated.

Outwardly to-day the Formosan is subdued but inside there is a burning rage which will flare up again. They won’t take it lying down. Their despair is pitiful and they can only trust the United Nations Council to get them out of their dilemma. They cannot give voice to their feelings or they would be picked up and rubbed out; they therefore have to rely entirely on the efforts and support of people outside the Island, and it’s up to them to raise such a Howl and keep it up until the United Council do take notice. Otherwise the Formosans are doomed to a life of oppression and subjection.

A. The Formosan is genuinely eager that the Island come under U.N. Mandate

B. The chaos, corruption, and maladministration which led to the disturbance demand a U.N. investigation.

C. An investigation would reveal the disgusting state of affairs under Chinese rule and it’s their job (U.N.C.) to see that they are remedied.

D. The remedy would be simple, granting all of Formosans the right to vote for what form of Government they desired and 98% would vote United Nations Mandate and the U.N.C. would be rewarded with the everlasting gratitude of 6,000,000 world citizens.

E. Any expenses incurred would gladly be refunded. Under proper government the island would become economically solvent in a very short time with its surplus of coal, gold, sugar, rice etc.

Now I suggest that when you have digested this you go to town and pass on to anyone you know the state of things in Formosa and form a committee or party to champion the Formosan cause. You probably know lots of people who are interested in Formosa and its people and who would gladly join in crusade to lift these pleasant industrious people from their present hell. It will require constant and relentless punching at the U.N. thro all and any channels to accomplish this aim.

1- Actually sent by K.W. Dowie, missionary in Taiwan 1913-1924, the architect of Tamsui Middle School. Dowie was then in the US Navy and had stopped in Taiwan.

2 - Mr. and Mrs. George William Mackay, who had arrived as 228 began. Mackay bravely tried to save Tan by going to see Garrison Commander General Ke Yuanfen.

3 - Tan Leng-thong (陳能通) Principal of Tamsui Middle School. His father, Rev. Tan Ong, a student of George Leslie Mackay, was also arrested but released.

4 - Lo Ui (盧圍) Science Teacher, died on March 18th. Gym teacher Ng Ah-thong (黃阿統) was arrested with Tan and suffered the same end. Along with thousands of others, they just disappeared. It is believed they were thrown into the ocean off Keelung.

UPDATE: Now translated into Chinese. Many thanks.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

Wow! I wonder how much contact there was with George Kerr et al.

Tommy said...

"The Chinese want only their version of the affair to reach the press."

The more things change...

Nathan said...

Hopefully someone can translate this letter.

竹板凳 said...

Mr. Turton, I have completed the Mandarin translation and posted it up on my blog.

thank you for sharing such a great find. it is of great historical value, and is a good reference for people to examine the situations today.

Scott in 士林 said...

One of the most shameful aspects of all of that is that AFAIK, NOT ONE of the police and soldiers who did all of that killing were ever charged with anything. Most of them probably enjoyed a nice long retirement, decades after their victims' lives were taken away.

But last week, I read in the paper that Mr. Ma had finally wrapped up, and neatly resolved the whole contentious subject of 228 and White Terror. What a problem-solver!

It's quite simple as he explained it. The mass killings that began in February 1947 ("228") and the killings, torture, disappearances, and unjust incarcerations that continued all through the 40s, 50s, and even into the 1980s were all simply products of the Chinese Civil War.

War is bad, and bad things happen in wars. No particular party or persons can really be held responsible for any of that. Nobody was really to blame. It just happened. Like a act of God, or Nature. So Taiwanese can put it all behind them, stop talking about it, and just be friends now!

Readin said...

Supposing I wanted to cite this in a scholarly essay, where would I get this letter from a source that would be considered more reliable than a blog (no offense intended)?

Michael Turton said...

Readin, you can contact Michael Stainton directly. He's very friendly and will be glad to give you a copy of the original for citation.