The 228 Accident (in need of assistance)

A mate of mine forwarded this bit of comic genius to me yesterday. As you can see from the header, it’s from the Hsinchu City Government Foreigner Assistance Center. Lord knows what the benighted denizens of said metropolis would do without these thoughtful souls to guide them.

A purveyor of education, my friend was agog at the woeful English in a newsletter aimed at English speakers and sent out by a branch of local government whose raison d’etre is to assist English-speaking foreigners.

I, on the other hand, was much more interested in the content of the publication, in particular, the historicity of the section on the origins of the 228 holiday.

Now, I’m willing to give the the people who concocted this the benefit of the doubt here and there. The English is so patchy throughout the newsletter that some of this stuff has doubtless been thoroughly mangled in “translation”. But a good deal of what we have here is far more insidious. The poor English merely compounds what is one of the most disgraceful attempts at historical revisionism that I’ve come across in my years in Taiwan, and I’ve come across plenty.

We start with the quite preposterous misappellation of the 228 Incident (already far too neutral a term for what was essentially a killing spree), which has now become the 228 Accident. Yes, people, those Formosans who had their hands bound with wire before being loaded on the back of trucks and carted off to ad hoc execution grounds around the island were just accidentally shot.

All right, I’m being facetious here. Obviously, the author is alluding to the incidents that sparked the whole kerfuffle. The gun-butting that the old cigarette vendor received for her wanton criminality, for example, was kind of accidental, wasn’t it? After all, the author opines, “maybe the policeman was nervous” and had “some reasons” for his actions.

Aside from this shameless dissembling, there are the stock turns of phrase and themes that are to be found in almost any section of that brilliant work of fiction “The History of Taiwan as Told by the KMT”. First there is the attempt to disparage and discredit all things Japanese (here skilfully intertwined with the excuses for why the Nationalist invaders were pissed off and might have slightly overeacted); then, we have the ubiquitous “restoration” claim, which this time is coloured even darker blue then ever before as the reader learns that “Taiwan was given back to the Republic of China”.

It’s been said time and time again and by heads older and wiser than mine (well, older, at any rate) but it really does bear repeating: The ROC came into being in 1911. How could a territory be “given back” to an entity that wasn’t even around to give it away (to Japan in 1895)?

I’ve picked up on just the glaring points here. You can see the rest for yourself. Almost every other line of this mendacious missive contains some attempt to twist the historical record and to water down the KMT’s crimes.

I can only presume this was drafted before Hsinchu City mayor Lin Chih-chien (林智堅) of the DPP broke the KMT stranglehold on the traditionally true blue city/county in November or, more likely, that he is completely unaware of it. Whoever wrote or translated it should be ashamed.

As amusing as this text is on a visceral level, it’s actually offensive to the memories of the people who died during this massacre and to their families. I shall be making my opinions on the matter known to Lin’s office and would encourage anyone who is sick of this kind of nonsense to do the same.

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