On February 28, the 65th anniversary of the 228 Incident, President Ma Ying-jeou attended an afternoon commemorative ceremony at the 228 Monument in Taipei's 228 Peace Park. On behalf of the government, the president returned letters and documents from four victims of the incident to their families, and issued certificates to nine households that restored the reputations of family members who were victims of the incident. In addition to the president, the ceremony was also attended by Premier Sean C. Chen (陳冲), Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧), Minister of the Council for Cultural Affairs Lung Yingtai (龍應台), and Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).
In remarks, the president first expressed his appreciation to victims of the incident and members of their families for attending the proceedings. He said that their compassion and courage are keys to healing of the wounds. President Ma noted that two years after the 228 Incident, martial law was declared on Taiwan, and that therefore only a very limited number of people discussed or had a broad understanding of the events. After the lifting of martial law in 1987, the government began to promote legislation related to the 228 Incident, achieving passage in 1995 of the February 28 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act. This provided the basis for establishment of a foundation that began to offer compensation to victims and their families. Starting in 1996, the government each year has held commemorative ceremonies, enabling the public to better understand the lessons of history and to better cherish the value of human rights.
President Ma mentioned that he has been involved in affairs associated with the handling of the 228 Incident for nearly 20 years and feels strongly that while the wrongs of history may perhaps be forgiven, the course of history cannot be forgotten. The president noted that in the past he has frequently had contact with victims of the incident and their families, and shares the grief they've felt for the past 50 years, which no amount of indemnification or apologies could possibly smooth over. For this reason, the 228 Memorial Foundation will continue investigating the incident and educating the public about it. The president also said he hopes that civil servants will visit the National 228 Memorial Museum to understand the importance of protecting human rights.
President Ma stated that on July 15 last year at a memorial ceremony for political victims during the martial law period he returned letters written by Mr. Huang Wengong (黃溫恭), a victim of political persecution, to his family. Immediately thereafter, he asked the Executive Yuan's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission and the National Archives Administration to carry out a thorough review of all files to determine whether there were similar personal documents still in storage. This work, he explained, began in September of last year and was completed at the end of November. A total of 776 pages of personal documents were discovered among the approximately eight million pages of state documents that were sorted through. These 776 pages involved 177 persons, of whom six were determined by the 228 Memorial Foundation to have been victims. President Ma stated that these papers, which have been collecting dust in storage for many years, are extremely important, and they may well be upsetting to the victims and their families, so he therefore reiterated the government's deepest apologies to the political victims and their families for what occurred.
President Ma explained that the 228 Incident took place because Taiwan was not democratic at that time and the government was corrupt. The establishment of a clean government that protects human rights has therefore been a philosophy he has embraced since he became involved in politics. Since taking office as president in May 2008, he has not only placed great importance on educating people about the significance of human rights, but also established a Human Rights Consultative Committee at the Office of the President to bring human rights in Taiwan up to international standards. He added that the government absolutely regards the protection of human rights as an important policy that underpins the governing of the nation.
President Ma quoted a thought-provoking inscription at the National 228 Memorial Museum: "We once lived in fear and gloom, but democracy arose like a beacon, to illuminate the dusty pages of the past, expose the truth, and preserve an indelible record of our historical experience." President Ma expressed his hope that the people of the ROC will join together and support each other so that, through the efforts of the present generation, the 228 Incident will take on a higher significance and be transformed into an asset for the next generation.
Shortly before the ceremony, the president took part in worship at the Fude Temple located in the 228 Peace Park, seeking protection for Taiwan and peace and prosperity for its people.