Last Saturday marked the 68th anniversary of the 228 Incident, a massacre in 1947 during which brutal government crackdown on anti-government riots left more than tens of thousands of deaths, and led Taiwan into martial law.
Prior to the February 28 national holiday, statues of Chiang Kai-shek were vandalized across the country. Graffiti and eggs were splashed on statues, while some were decapitated. Chiang, the dictator that ruled Taiwan under martial law, is often seen as the perpetrator of the 228 massacres. Several people who claimed responsibility explained that they were protesting against the lack of transitional justice in Taiwan, which allows statues of a “murderer” to remain in public spaces.
Over the years, scholars and relatives of the 228 Incident victims have been pushing for the government to disclose relevant files and documents, a move they say will go a long way towards Taiwan’s transitional justice. Many feel that the perpetrators have not been recognized and their crimes unaddressed.
A group of mostly university students, aiming to heal the open wound that continues to scar the nation, put together a memorial concert to take place every February 28 in front of the memorial to Chiang Kai-shek. Called the Gongsheng (co-exist) Music Festival, it is in its third year. Distinguishing itself from other memorial events held by the government or other organizations, they wish to raise awareness of this historical event among youngsters in hope that the younger generation could also contribute to the reconciliation process.
Given last year’s Sunflower Movement and the Occupy Central democracy movement in Hong Kong, both of which were both led by students, organizers this year gave the festival the central theme of “The Youth Rise Again.”
Yeh Jiunn-tyng (葉俊廷), the convener of the event this year, said that as more young people have come to engage with social issues, the event will highlight the role of their generation in 228 commemoration and other social movements. In order to accomplish the latter, Yeh said, it is crucial that they have a full comprehension of Taiwan’s history. Therefore, boards and placards were displayed along the side, as victims, relatives and scholars related to the 228 Incident shared stories and gave lectures to the audience.
When asked how communication can be fostered and barrier shattered by the musical festival, Yeh said, the music was for all. Anyone could simply join the concert, leave with the information presented at the venue, and come up with their own interpretation of the history and their own roles.
Diversity, he said, is the main idea. Thus, dozens of grassroot advocacy groups were invited to campaign their ideas.
Yeh said that he has seen more people from different fields joining social movements by utilizing their own professions. Their goal is to have more people come together as the concerts go on annually, so that transitional justice regarding to the 228 Incident will permeate, and the democracy in Taiwan could be further consolidated.
(Feature photo of Gongsheng Music Festival, featuring 搖滾主耶穌, photo by 陳君碩.)