Once a year on February 28th, the anniversary of the 228 Massacre, the fog of strategic ambiguity lifts briefly in Taiwan and there is public acknowledgment that the exiled Republic of China government ruling Taiwan committed terrible crimes against the local people. While the ROC tries to downplay the tragedy by calling the bloodshed the 228 Incident, there is recognition that something wrong happened in 1947 when tens of thousands Formosans were murdered and tortured.
Taiwan Civil Government, an advocacy group, marked the solemn anniversary with a march in downtown Taichung. The marchers added a white headband to their customary black suit uniforms and kept a tight, military-like formation. TCG, formed in 2008, seeks to oust the Republic of China from the island with United States assistance.
There is no accurate count of the 228 Massacre dead, as bodies littered the streets and rivers after Chinese troops brutally suppressed a spontaneous uprising, but common estimates start at 30,000 deaths. The United States imposed ROC soldiers on Formosa, as Taiwan was then known, after the end of World War II to process surrendering Japanese soldiers. The Chinese civil war between the Communists and the Kuomintang grew into a larger Cold War after Chiang Kai-shek’s defeat in 1949.
It had been the stated intent of the United States to give Formosa to the ROC as war booty surrendered by the Japanese. However, the 228 Massacre crimes and subsequent White Terror period of harsh martial law kept the United States from its pledge at the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty. Taiwan has been stuck in “political purgatory” as a federal court described it in Roger Lin v. United States, ever since.
Taiwan’s unresolved status for seven decades has left everyone confused about the island’s sovereignty. TCG’s route to independence as a sovereign nation is by way of an interim United States military government. To achieve that goal TCG, which is noisily pro-American, has been courting the Donald Trump administration and spending heavily on Washington public relations campaigns.
Julian Lin, wife of TCG founder Roger Lin, scored a private session with presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway in May 2017. A visit by a TCG delegation with Members of Congress was to be capped with a meeting with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross at the Heritage Foundation. However, a reception with Ross was canceled after Roger and Julian Lin and others were arrested for fraud in May 2018.
ROC prosecutors claim to be only protecting the interests of disgruntled TCG members who say they were deceived about the benefits of their identification cards. The Lins and others have denied guilt and assert the prosecution was intended to stop TCG progress in Washington. A non-jury trial is pending.
TCG has continued to organize and seek new members. The fraud arrests may have stopped business as usual but have shown significant resources within the group. The Taichung parade demonstrates that the beleaguered group has not given up its efforts to combat the ROC government imposed on the island so many years ago.