Chen blames late nationalist leader for 1947 massacre

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am

Chiang Kai-shek was deeply involved, says president

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has slammed former nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek as the prime culprit in a 1947 massacre, in what the opposition sees as a move to demonise the late leader for political gains.

'Historic archives all show that Chiang Kai-shek was the prime culprit in the February 28 incident, which is not just a historical incident, but is more like a slaughter, a criminal act,' Mr Chen said yesterday at the opening of a seminar on the massacre.

Branding the late generalissimo a foreign invader and a dictator, Mr Chen said the task of returning justice to those killed in the 1947 incident meant it was not right that Chiang was still given respect and had the status of an emperor.

'Those who violated human rights and committed the crime should be legally prosecuted and receive sanctions under the law,' he said, referring to the deaths of up to 20,000 Taiwanese at the hands of Kuomintang troops sent from the mainland to quell a three-month uprising that started on February 28, 1947.

Mr Chen said the exchange of more than 90 letters between Chiang and then Taiwan governor Chen Yi showed the generalissimo was aware of and deeply involved in the suppression.

He said there was a need for the government to deal with the issue of maintaining Chiang's mausoleum in Taoyuan, outside Taipei, in honour of a 'prime culprit' and 'dictator'. He also saw a need for the government to remove Chiang's name from a memorial hall.

The attack on Chiang two days before the 228 Incident anniversary was criticised by the KMT as an attempt to deepen the island's ethnic split to make political gains ahead of a legislature election in December and a presidential poll in March next year.

'Being the leader of [Taiwan], Chen Shui-bian should have led people here to look forward, instead of once again agitating the ethnic conflict,' said KMT legislator Hsu Hsiao-ping.

People First Party legislator Lee Hung-chun said that whenever there was an election, Mr Chen and his Democratic Progressive Party stirred up ethnic tensions to draw support from voters.

John Chiang Hsiao-yen, Chiang Kai-shek's grandson and a KMT legislator, threatened to file a libel lawsuit against Mr Chen.

'It is highly irresponsible for Chen Shui-bian to make those comments, and I am consulting with my lawyer to see whether we can bring a libel suit against him.'

He was also thinking of suing DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun, who had made similar comments about his grandfather.

Former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou has said the party should be held responsible for the massacre, but described the 1947 incident as a crackdown rather than a deliberate massacre of native Taiwanese.

Ma, who stepped down as party chairman after being indicted for corruption, said yesterday he would do all he could to contest next year's presidential election so the KMT could return to power.