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Harvard Affiliates Hold Vigil for Victims of 228 Massacre in Taiwan

Harvard affiliates gathered in the Science Center Plaza Saturday to honor the victims of the 1947 "228" massacre in Taiwan.
Harvard affiliates gathered in the Science Center Plaza Saturday to honor the victims of the 1947 "228" massacre in Taiwan. By Thomas Maisonneuve
By Kyle Baek and Saketh Sundar, Crimson Staff Writers

More than twenty Harvard affiliates gathered in the Science Center Plaza on Saturday evening to honor the victims of the 1947 “228” massacre in Taiwan.

The vigil — organized by a Harvard undergraduate — was followed by a panel discussion on the Chinese government’s “atrocities” featuring Ngawang Sangdrol, 2a Tibetan former political prisoner; Jennifer Zeng, a Chinese human rights activist; and Julie Wu ’88, a Taiwanese-American physician and author.

The 228 Massacre resulted from the Kuomintang government’s suppression of anti-government protests beginning Feb. 28, 1947. The crackdown resulted in an estimated 18,000 to 28,000 deaths and disappearances, marking the beginning of nearly four decades of martial law.

On the plaza, Harvard affiliates stood in the rain to commemorate the victims of the massacre with speeches, candles, and photographs of the victims.

Cosette Wu ’25, who co-organized the vigil, opened the event with a story of her great-grandfather, who was killed in the 228 Massacre.

“I know the story of my great-grandfather because my great-grandmother happened to do one interview before she passed away,” Wu said.

“But the stories of thousands of other victims have been lost to state-sponsored amnesia and the passage of time,” she added.

Following the vigil, attendees moved into a Science Center lecture hall for a panel discussion on the Chinese government.

Sangdrol and Zeng, the former political prisoner and human rights activist, delivered emotional retellings of being detained by the Chinese government.

Sangdrol, who was held as a Tibetan political prisoner, said “every night it was that nightmare.”

“We suffered cruel torture since the invasion of Tibet,” Sangdrol said. “The communist China killed a million Tibetan people, including my oldest brother.”

“The army would come inside the monastery in the night and we would hear gunshots from our bedroom,” she added.

Zeng — who had been detained for her participation in Falun Gong, a controversial religious movement founded in China in the early 1990s — spoke about the persecution she faced.

“I was arrested four time[s] and then sent to Beijing female labor camp for a year,” Zeng said.

“Every day we have to get up at 5:30 in the morning and work, and we were forced to work until midnight,” she added. “Sometimes we weren’t getting any sleep at all.”

Wu, a Taiwanese-American author who published a historical fiction novel set in occupied 1950s Taiwan, said she really struggled to find information about Taiwanese history due to censorship.

“I tried looking for references — nothing that I read really had anything that seems to be accurate, because Taiwan was highly censored,” Wu said.

Wu said that in the process of writing her novel, she was educating her own parents, who had relatives who died in the 228 Massacre.

“The thing about censorship is that these atrocities happened, and they were not allowed to talk about them,” Wu said.

“I wrote this book, and was able to actually educate my parents about what happened on Feb. 28, 1947,” she added.

Evangeline Liao ’25, who attended the events, said she was “really surprised that I had never heard of it before.”

“My great-grandparents left China at the beginning of communism and went to India,” Liao, a Crimson Technology editor, said. “I felt really connected in a way that I didn’t expect.”

—Staff writer Kyle Baek can be reached at Follow him on X @KBaek53453.

—Staff writer Saketh Sundar can be reached at Follow him on X @saketh_sundar.

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