Mon, Jan 07, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Transitional justice is not just electioneering

By Chen Yi-shen 陳儀深

The Chinese-language China Times has mobilized a group of academics to condemn the renaming of the erstwhile Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, calling it political revenge that will lead to more conflict, instead of promoting transitional justice. They even say that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is attacking Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) so as to attract votes for his party.

One of the academics, a National Chengchi University professor, claimed that Chen is harping on about the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) stolen assets to divert attention away from his corruption case. The professor suggests that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should establish a commission to unearth the truth behind incidents that occurred during the martial law period.

These academics have distorted the DPP's pursuit of transitional justice, saying it is only an election trick and a smokescreen for Chen's personal political crisis.

But this is not true. Based on investigations conducted by the Cabinet's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission in conjunction with experts on Taiwanese history, the National Archives Administration held an exhibition on documents related to the 228 Incident in March 2001. In the same year, the Compensation Foundation for Improper Verdicts published a book on the legal and historical aspects of political incidents during the martial-law era. Subsequently, in June 2003, the 228 Memorial Foundation held a seminar to discuss recently discovered historical materials related to the 228 Incident. This led to the release of the Report on the Responsibility for the 228 Incident in February 2006, which found that Chiang was primarily responsible for the incident. This should be the most significant reference in the handling of the memorial hall.

Moreover, the Council for Cultural Affairs has operated the Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park for several years, and the military turned a former detention center in Taipei City into Jingmei Human Rights Park last month. Those who are concerned with the issue can criticize the government for its slow and inadequate efforts, but they should not discredit such efforts unless they do not support transitional justice.

I have been among those who criticized the government for doing too little, too slowly. However, having participated in the process and observed it closely, it has become impossible for me to criticize the government. Since the transfer of power in 2000 entailed only the replacement of high-ranking officials, the bureaucratic system still runs according to the old methods.

What is worse, the special legislation necessary for the investigation of truth and responsibility has been boycotted since the 1990s by the pan-blue camp, which enjoys a majority in the legislature.

Admittedly, the transformation of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall into National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall was somewhat flawed. Still, we should accept this in light of the political environment. It is notable that even Chiang's great grandson, Demos Chiang (蔣友柏), supported the name change, arguing that it was wrong to set up statues of his great grandfather. Demos Chiang has also said that the pan-blue camp has employed slogans such as "anti-Chiang" and "de-sinicization" for political gain. His comments make a lot more sense than those of the China Times academics.

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