The end of martial law and the beginning of Taiwan’s democratization

It is impossible to calculate the number of Taiwan citizens who were killed during the February 28 Incident of 1947. During the long White Terror period that followed, the blood of innumerable people of integrity, both local Taiwanese and post-war evacuees from the mainland, was shed at the execution grounds of the race track, with more taking their place in the fight for human rights. Four decades later, in February 1987, Cheng Nan-jung, who had been born the year of the February 28 Incident, pushed for justice. As riot police lined the streets, he toured the island giving speeches and holding marches, appealing for a redress of historical wrongs and the release of political prisoners.

15 July 1987 march calling for the lifting of martial law. (photo by Liu Chen-hsiang)

The February 28 Incident and the White Terror affected Taiwan profoundly, and much work remains in the healing and rebuilding of the group spirit of Taiwan residents. The wounds of the White Terror era can only be healed if Taiwan becomes a permanent guardian of human rights.

20 May 1991 march protesting the Taiwan Independence Society Case and demanding that intelligence agencies get out of the university campuses. (#2 photo by Huang Tsu-ming  #3 photo by Hsu Po-hsin)

March calling for the abolition of Criminal Code Article 100. (photo by Hsu Po-hsin)

In 1995, the February 28 Peace Memorial was erected in Taipei’s February 28 Peace Park. President Lee Teng-hui issued the first apology to Taiwan’s citizens for the violence committed by the Nationalist government in 1947. The apology was of great symbolic significance because the true wrongdoers had never borne legal responsibility for their actions in the February 28 Incident nor during the White Terror. (photo by Huang Tzu-ming)

The Taiwan Independence Society Case of 1991 was a typical White Terror-type case, provoking the ire of political prisoners imprisoned in the 1950s. They demanded the abolition of the Statutes for the Punishment of Rebellion.(photo by Huang Tzu-ming) 

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