In court ruling, Okinawan first foreign victim acknowledged in Taiwan’s February 28 Incident

February 18, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

In 1947, the Kuomintang administration in Taiwan massacred civilians in what is known as the February 28 Incident. One of the victims of this incident was the father of 72-year-old Keishou Aoyama of Urasoe City, who was a Japanese fisherman in Taiwan at the time. Aoyama brought a claim demanding compensation from the Taiwanese government for the death of his father. On February 17, the Taipei High Administrative Court issued a verdict in favor of Aoyama. The Court acknowledged the high likelihood that Aoyama’s father, Esaki, then 38, was a victim of the February 28 Incident. It ordered the Taiwanese government to pay Aoyama 6 million New Taiwan dollars (around 20 million yen) in compensation. The Taiwanese government is currently considering whether or not to appeal. If it ends up paying the compensation, it will be the first time a foreigner receives compensation for the February 28 Incident.

After the verdict was made, Aoyama spoke to the press in Taipei, saying, “It was a landmark verdict. My father will finally be able to rest in peace.”

The verdict included mention of three other Okinawan men in addition to Esaki: Minoru Nakatake, Kane Ishizoko, and Genchuu Ohnaga. Through its investigations, the “Okinawa Association to Discover the Truth of the Taiwan February 28 Incident” uncovered that these men had been victims of the Incident. Yoshiaki Aoyama is representative organizer of the association. Okinawa University visiting professor Morikiyo Matayoshi, who is an advisor to the association, says that the association plans to prepare claims to compensation for the other three victims as well.

Aoyama first demanded compensation from a fund managed by the Taiwanese government in 2013. However, last year, the fund rejected his claim, giving as one reason the fact that the Japanese government has continually ignored claims for compensation for Taiwanese people victimized as comfort women and in other ways during World War II. The court’s verdict, in addition to acknowledging Esaki’s disappearance during the February 28 Incident, ordered the Taiwanese government to pay compensation.

Investigations by the “February 28 Incident Memorial Fund,” an NPO established by the Administrative Court to provide relief to victims of the Incident, found that Esaki had indeed been a victim. Nonetheless, the Taiwanese administration, which is in charge of determining compensation, denied compensation on the basis of the principle of equality, stating that Japanese government compensation to Taiwanese former soldiers serving in the Imperial Japanese military, as well as Taiwanese former comfort women, has been inadequate.

In September 2015, Aoyama filed a lawsuit against the Fund. The court’s verdict pointed out that the principle of equality does not apply according to the February 28 Incident Management and Compensation Regulation, a special regulation stipulating the nature of compensation for victims of the Incident. The court ordered the government to pay foreign victims compensation equivalent to that accorded to Taiwanese victims, noting that there is no article in the law denying compensation to foreign victims. The February 28 Incident was regarded as taboo under the Kuomintang dictatorship, but as Taiwan’s government democratized, the facts are coming to light and compensation is being paid to the victims.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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