TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je was brought to tears twice yesterday, before and during the National 228 Peace Memorial Day event.
The mayor was first seen with tears in his eyes while accompanying his father Ko Cheng-fa to the 288 Memorial Museum, which commemorates the victims of the violent suppression of Feb. 27, 1947 by the ruling Kuomintang (KMT).
Both Ko and his father shed tears while visiting the memorial wall, which is engraved with the name of the mayor's grandfather Ko Shih-yuan among other victims of the incident. The mayor then wrote the words "love and peace" on a white cloth and tied it to the monument.
Following the visit, the mayor and his family attended the memorial event as relatives of 228 victims. Ko Wen-je also took the stage to deliver a speech on behalf of all of the victims' families who were present at the event in Taipei.
During his speech, Ko was brought to tears again when addressing the imprisonment, physical abuse and death of his grandfather in the incident that ushered in the nation's historical White Terror era and martial law under the KMT.
Nation Must Unite Under Forgiveness and Peace: Ko
The mayor said that the 228 Incident and its subsequent repercussions left scars on three generations of his family, as he only knew his late grandfather through stories. According to the mayor, during the event his father told him that he does not wish to lose his son after losing his own father.
However, the mayor later said that though his heart was heavy because of the event, he is stronger as a result, and he hopes Taiwan will no longer have incidents that create regrets; only those that bring love and peace.
The 228 Peace Memorial Day was established in an effort confront history and reveal the truth of the incident, serving as a milestone that encourages the unity and progress of Taiwanese society, the mayor said.
Ko also delivered a moving speech in both Mandarin and Taiwanese. "The people of Taiwan must dictate our own destiny. Regardless of the fact that the owners of the land have been constantly changing in the last 400 years, the people of Taiwan must be the owners of this land, and the fact that Taiwan is our homeland will never change."
Ko concluded his speech with words of encouragement, stating that it is the responsibility of his generation to deliver a bright future to the next through forgiveness, peace and unity.
Ko Did Not Shake Hands with Ma out of Hygienic Courtesy
In related news, following widespread attention from local media concerning Ko refusing to extend his hand to President Ma after the latter extended his on two different occasions, Taipei City Government spokesperson Lin Ho-ming explained that Ko acted out of hygienic courtesy.
Lin said that the mayor had tissue paper - which he used to wipe his tears - in his hands the first time Ma offered his hand after the mayor's speech, and he refrained from shaking hands the second time because his hands were still dirty. The spokesman then implored the general public to abstain from reading too much into the interaction between Ma and Ko.