Desmond Tutu calls on Taiwan to face its painful past

Desmond Tutu calls on Taiwan to face its painful past

By staff writers
23 Apr 2007

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa has called on the people of Taiwan to face their painful history and to heal the wounds caused by a 1947 uprising in which thousands were massacred.

Discussion of the slaughter of islanders by Nationalist troops brought in from mainland China remained taboo for decades under Nationalist (Kuomintang, KMT) leader Chiang Kai-shek.

Nobel Lauretae Desmond Tutu's visit last week came as the island grapples with the legacy of Chiang, who is accused of human rights abuses during his long rule, which ended with his death in 1975.

While calling for forgiveness for the perpetrators, Archbishop Tutu declared: "that's not the end of the whole question".

"The question is how do you make up for the pain, suffering and loss," the South African cleric said after meeting with families of some of the people killed in the event 60 years ago.

"You really are not going to have a proper country until you deal with your past," Tutu said during a trip to a Taipei park in memory of the victims of the 28 February massacre known as "2/28 Incident" locally.

The incident was sparked when a KMT inspector beat a woman vendor in Taipei for selling untaxed cigarettes. It triggered riots across Taiwan which were crushed, according to an official report, by troops sent from the mainland by Chiang, who was then leader of China's Nationalist government.

Official reports put the estimated death toll at between 18,000 and 28,000.

Chiang fled to Taiwan in 1949 after his forces lost a civil war to communist forces led by Mao Zedong.

The massacre remained taboo for decades. It was not until 1995 that then president Lee Teng-hui made the first official apology, and parliament agreed on compensation and made 28 February a national holiday.

The anniversary has only been officially observed since 1998.

Archbishop Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, headed South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Keywords: desmond tutu | taiwan
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