An academic paper about the late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) released by Academia Sinica research fellow Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德) has unexpectedly incur-red denunciation from pro-Chiang people.
As far as academic discussion is concerned, those criticizing the paper should closely read the entire text and put its arguments to test before finding fault. Their emotional criticism, which verges on political wrangling, is inappropriate and has more or less imbued the academic discussion with an authoritarian flavor.
Wu should feel lucky that he only has to face criticism. If this paper had been released when martial law was in place, I'm afraid he might have been placed behind bars.
Chiang is frequently praised for his political conduct in his later years. There are claims that he is the initiator of Taiwan's democracy. Wu's paper reviewed this argument. The paper conducted comparisons and analyses by making reference to or instancing more than 70 Chinese or foreign-language writings.
Here I address some questions regarding several key events or developments.
First, Chiang's lifting of martial law is considered his biggest contribution to the nation's democracy. The question is: How long was martial law in effect before it was lifted during Chiang's tenure in office? Chiang was practically in power for more than 30 years, during which he served first as premier and then as president for 16 years. In comparison, only five months and 13 days of his administration were free of martial law. This fact should be the focus of debate.
What we need to find out is whether or not lifting martial law was Chiang's own initiative, or a passive decision he made in response to the impact of democratic movements. What's worthy of discussion is whether politicians at that time -- now members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) who still enjoy political power -- advocated continued martial law or its lifting before Chiang announced the lifting of martial law.
Would they have voiced opposition if Chiang had decided to keep martial law in place? This question especially should be put before former president Lee Teng-hui (
Second, some describe Chiang's relatively moderate response to the Kaohsiung Incident as another contribution to Taiwan's democracy. But were those arrested and handed prison terms in connection with the incident really guilty? If they were, then how did Chiang intervene in the trial results?
In particular, consider the fact that the 12 top defendants who were given a military trial -- including the late Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Huang Hsin-chieh (
Without Chiang's intervention, these defendants would not have had their sentences commuted. If the president intervened in the trial and saved democracy activists, what did that mean? And whether this incident was a case of rebellion and dealt with according to the law is a key point that should be sorted out.
Third, what was the final decision Chiang made 17 years ago in the face of the founding of the DPP? The policy-making process at that time was indeed related to the development of the nation's democratic politics and thus deserves further investigation. Although many DPP pioneers mustered up their courage and seized the critical opportunity to establish the party, they still harbor fear now as they recall the risks they faced at that time.