Taipei, Feb. 28 (CNA) Taiwan's government officials, political opposition and victims' families remembered the 228 Incident in their own ways Monday, the 64th anniversary of the tragedy that left tens of thousands of people dead.
In a violent suppression of anti-government uprisings that began on Feb. 28, 1947 -- two years after Japanese colonial rule on the island ended -- KMT troops killed an estimated 18,000 to 30,000 Taiwanese, many of them the country's elite intellectuals.
President Ma Ying-jeou attended the opening ceremony of the National Taiwan 228 Memorial Museum in the morning and the central government's annual commemoration of the tragedy in Taipei in the afternoon on one of the most controversial days of the year in Taiwan.
"The very fact that the museum is open today symbolizes that the Republic of China government is a government of introspection and that Taiwan has already made strides in its development of freedom and democracy, " he said in his speech in the morning.
Standing in front of the 228 Memorial Monument in the 228 Peace Park in Taipei City and addressing families of the victims in the afternoon, Ma apologized to them on behalf of the government and pledged to continue trying to uncover the truth of the incident so the next generation could understand "the whole truth."
"We have now completed the process of compensation, and the presentation of 'reputation-restoring' certificates to the victims' families is ongoing, but we know the mission is not accomplished yet," Ma said.
In his speech as a representative of the families of the victims, Chang An-man, whose grandfather, father and uncle were murdered in the incident, recognized the government's continuing efforts under the direction of former presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian and the incumbent Ma to help unearth the historical facts of the tragedy.
"However, the whole truth is not out there, as some information is missing. If we cannot understand the whole truth, the nature of the incident will be distorted or forgotten over time, " Chang said.
The government has held a 228 ceremony every year since 2003 as part of efforts to heal the historical wounds through legislative or concrete acts, such as making a formal apology and offering monetary compensation to the families of the victims.
However, public opinion has been split over the incident and the government's handling of the tragedy.
The main issues still in question include whether Chiang Kai-shek, the president of the Republic of China who was in China at the time, ordered the massacre and should be held accountable for it.
There are also conflicting estimates of the number of people killed during and after the incident, varying from 800 to more than 30,000 according to different studies.
Speaking in the eastern city of Yilan, Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said that while the government has offered a formal apology, the incident "has been a tragedy without perpetrators to this day" and that has hurt the feelings of the oppressed.
"There is only one truth about the incident, which should not be changed with party rotation, " she said.
Some family members of the victims, backed by the DPP and pro-independence groups, marched the streets in Taipei demanding that the party they felt was the main perpetrator, the KMT, pay compensation rather than the government.
In response to the demand, Ma said that the KMT government played the major role in the incident and that it was "appropriate" for the Republic of China government -- not the KMT -- to pay compensation.
A memorial service was also held in the southern city of Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan where thousands of people were killed in the incident, with hundreds participating in a ceremony at the 228 Peace Memorial Park.
As part of the activities to mark 228, local governments around Taiwan lowered the national flag to half-mast.
In related news, Nina Koldin, widow of the late United States Representative Stephen Solarz, who died in 2010, attended a memorial service for the twin daughters and mother of former DPP Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung, who were stabbed to death coincidentally on Feb. 28, 1980, when Lin was in jail as a political prisoner.
There are no suspects in the case to this day.
Koldin said she visited Taiwan to pay her respects and "to remind young people that they have to know what their democracy was founded upon."
Solarz was a long-time supporter of Taiwan's democratic movement. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls