Pizza Hut’s Taiwan PR department appears to be in need of some additional sensitivity training after inviting customers to “celebrate” the 70th anniversary of the February 28 Incident by taking advantage of some sweet pizza deals.
The February 28 Incident, also called the February 28 Massacre or the 2.28 Incident (二二八事件), refers to the violent suppression of an anti-government uprising in Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist forces which began on February 28th, 1947. Anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the bloody crackdown which marked the beginning of the infamous White Terror period which saw tens of thousands more killed, imprisoned or simply disappeared.
To commemorate the incident, workers in Taiwan were given a 5-day weekend with both Monday and Tuesday off from work. To take advantage of the long weekend, Pizza Hut posted a promotion onto its Facebook page last Thursday, asking followers if they were “Ready to celebrate 2/28?” The offensive post also managed to describe the deals as the most “killer” in history, inciting further outrage among the public.
Pizza Hut has since apologized for the promotion, changing its slogan to “Ready for the holiday?” Yet some are not ready to forget the company’s historical ignorance. According to Taiwan News, one Facebook user wrote that what the company had done was “just like celebrating 9/11 in America.”
Ross D. Feingold, chair of the Chabad Taipei Jewish Center, told The News Lens that the Pizza Hut incident shows how the anniversary of the massacre is seen by most as simply a welcome day off work, rather than a somber occasion to commemorate.
“Today’s controversy over Pizza Hut offering promotional deals over the four-day holiday weekend is a good reminder that this day is about commemoration and memorial and not fun,” he says. “Unfortunately for Pizza Hut, and understandably, the promotion was simply consistent with the general environment that this is a weekend for fun and leisure rather than commemoration.”
Feingold also notes that much news reporting in the lead-up to February 28 focuses on traffic, the best way to get out of Taipei and return to family homes in other parts of Taiwan and entertainment options for the holiday period.
“Although mixed into those reports were short segments about President Tsai and other government leaders meeting victims and their descendants, it’s unfortunate that for many the commemoration is secondary to having fun.”
Elsewhere in Taiwan, some activists have “celebrated” the holiday by attempting to demolish statues of Chiang. The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall itself was closed on Tuesday to protect its statue of the former Taiwan leader from potential harm.
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