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Ma urges increase to 228 education

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to increase the proportion of teaching materials on the 228 Incident in textbooks, while attending a memorial for the incident at the Taipei 228 Peace Memorial Park.

Ma said memorials for the 228 Incident, a period of anti-government unrest and government repression in 1947 in which tens of thousands of people were estimated to have died, tend to be superficial, adding that the government should ensure the historical event becomes a lesson for future generations.

While marking the 66th anniversary of the incident, Ma bowed and apologized on behalf of the nation to the families of victims of the event.

Over the past 20 years, the government has acknowledged its mistakes and apologized to the victims' families, Ma said, noting that memorials can never make up for the tragedy nor can outsiders ever truly understand the sadness and agony of the affected families.

Ma said he promises that he will work to strengthen human rights and democracy in Taiwan, and he will not let anything like the 228 incident happen again.

The president said many international human rights experts are currently reviewing Taiwan's human rights report. According to local reports, 10 experts are assessing the document. Ma added that this is the first time Taiwan has published a human rights report and invited international experts to review it since the country withdrew from the United Nations in 1971.

Ma said the report is a chance to ensure Taiwan's human rights policy develops in-line with the world's.

Wang Tsan-hung (王贊紘), grandson of a 228 victim, said 228 was the first time that Taiwanese expressed their opinions to the government.

Wang's grandfather Ong Thiam-teng was a provincial council member and president of the Taipei Tea Merchant's Association. He served as spokesman for the 228 Settlement Committee and was the chief drafter of the “32 Demands.”

Wang said after his grandfather made his last radio broadcast, friends of Ong told him to flee. Wang said Ong knew his life was in danger but refused to leave, feeling that he had not done anything wrong and so had nothing to fear.

A few days later Ong was arrested by the police and disappeared, Wang said.

The 228 Incident was an enlightening moment in the development of Taiwan's democracy, Wang said, and without the victims' hopes and dreams, Taiwan would never have been able to enjoy its present democracy.

During the event, a middle-aged woman shouted the president's name as Ma delivered his address. The woman was removed.

Nearly 1,000 police and security agents were on stand-by during the memorial event.

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In this combined photograph, an adult and a child stand before a wall with pictures of 228 Incident victims, left, while young siblings write down their prayers at the Taipei 228 National Memorial Museum, yesterday. (CNA)

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