4/25/2010

228 Memorial in Badu (八堵), Taiwan

I took this shot the other day when I was in Badu (八堵). I noticed it as I was crossing the street, coming into the train station. This plaque was on the far side of memorial; you won't see in the picture for that reason: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2010/04/badu-taiwan-to-boise-idaho.html.

I originally planned to translate the plaque and leave it at that. But I realized it's mostly dates and names. There's no background to fill out the story. So I went online to get some.

The story of what unfolded at the Badu Train Station won't be an unfamiliar one to those who have looked into the 228 Massacre that got underway February 28, 1947. After the US defeated Japan in 1945, it was decided that Chiang Kai-shek and his KMT forces would oversee the island for the time being. The people of Taiwan, after 50 years of colonization, welcomed the new regime. They anticipated an end to Japanifization policies, which rejected Taiwan's Chinese and Aboriginal heritage.

300,000 people came out to cheer on the incoming Chinese troops in October, 1945, who landed in Keelung. The honeymoon however was over on the day it began. Upon landing, a Chinese general grabbed the mic and asserted in a shrill voice: "Taiwan is beyond the passes, a degraded land of degraded people." At that time, Taiwan was probably the second most advanced country in Asia, after Japan.

The people who witnessed the landing were surprised by the state of the KMT army. They were a ragged bunch, comprised of teenagers and old men, nothing like the professional Japanese Imperial Army they had grown accustomed to. From the get-go, KMT soldiers began to loot. They seized bicycles from Taiwanese onlookers. Many of the KMT soldiers could not even ride a bike, but this did not deter them. They strapped the bikes to their backs and continued on their way. Over the next couple months, more and more Chinese soldiers arrived in Taiwan. Not having anywhere to go, they hunkered down in government buildings, hospitals and factories. For warmth, they burnt chairs, desks and bannisters. For food, they barged into shops and took what they wanted. Many home invasions occurred during this time, an issue that has not been settled to this day. Some of the relatives of home invaders still live in places illegally taken. Much of Taiwan's infrastructure, like her factories and trains, were packed up and carted off to China. Those in charge of such actions pocketed the profits. But their actions had the green light. Chiang Kai-shek's income system worked liked this: 30 percent of your salary comes from pay while 70 percent should come from what you can loot off a local population.

Things finally came to a head in 1947. The Chinese KMT, although they had, in their own eyes, "conquered" Taiwan, were still standing on the outside. They had little to show for it. Taiwanese individuals continued to occupy the positions of power, as bureaucrats, professors and business people.

The spark to change this reality of KMT invaders not getting all of the pie came on February, 28, 1947 when a woman selling cigarettes in Taipei talked back to two KMT police officers. The police, after checking her papers (and perhaps seeking but not getting a back hander), grew frustrated and pistol-whipped her. The onlooking crowd, feeling enough was enough, began to riot. 

Over the next few months, Taiwan's ruling class would be liquidated in what looks to be today, an organized power grab. When the dust settled, some 30,000 Taiwanese and 1,000 Chinese were dead. The Chinese invaders, it seems, had targeted those with their hands on the levers of power, and were now running the show. Where they compiled their kill sheets remains a mystery. Some have said that "half mountain people," or those who left Taiwan when it was abandoned by China in 1895 only to return with the KMT, were instrumental in this effort.

The above plaque is an account of this massacre and how it affected Badu (八堵). On March 11, 1947, employees at the Badu Train Station cracked. They'd had enough of the bully tactics of the KMT soldiers riding the trains, in particular, of how they booted ticket-holding passengers out of their seats. Simply put, the soldiers didn't have tickets, but thought ticket holders should make way. The employees of the Badu Train Station saw it differently.

17 people in Badu were murdered as a result. The dead included the Badu station master, 李丹修, and his assistant, 許朝宗. Also murdered were two men simply going to work. I asked my wife what happened to these poor people. She thinks most of the victims had their feet bound together. They weren't shot, but rather dumped in the ocean.

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