On June 4th, 1989, hundreds of Chinese student protesters were gunned down by the People’s Liberation Army for expressing their discontent in the government. This year, I was able to experience the commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in a country that is able to easily empathize with the horrors of an authoritarian regime.
There was a Taipei memorial event being held in front of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Stalls and booths surrounded the area informing the attendees of the different social and human rights issues people were facing today. A documentary of the infamous “Tank Man” was playing on a screen in the center of the memorial.
People walking further into the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial will notice a large, inflatable depiction of the “Tank Man” photograph. A podium in front of the display explained the artist’s intent to promote remembrance of the danger of the Chinese regime.
This event hits close to home with many Taiwanese citizens, not only because of their current, precarious situation with the Chinese Communist Party, but also because they experienced their own version of Tiananmen Square, which they refer to as the February 28th incident, or “228.” On a tour of old town Taipei, our tour group was able to hear about Taiwanese history concerning the Chinese regime.
Our tour guide explained that the 228 incident was sparked when an elderly, Taiwanese woman was heavily beaten by a couple of officers of the ruling party, the Kuomintang from mainland China, for selling cigarettes in order to survive. A citizen who came to her aid was subsequently killed, sparking a gathering of protesters the following day. Without warning, the protesters were shot upon, leaving many dead and marking the beginnings of indiscriminate killing of Taiwanese known as the “White Terror”.
It is important to understand the culture and politics of Taiwan or of any other country you might visit in order to be respectful if discussing touchy subjects. Within the first week, CET Taiwan has already done a great job making sure each student is better educated in these areas, leading us to further our understand of the new world and culture around us.