Despite President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) repeated apologies to political victims and their families for what they have suffered under the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the government’s recent nomination of former military prosecutor Lin Hui-huang (林輝煌) as one of the candidates for the Council of Grand Justices again proves that Ma’s words are empty, and might explain why many people do not believe him.
Less than a month ago, Ma apologized to the victims of the 228 Incident and their families during an official memorial event, promising that his government would do everything possible to ensure that such a tragedy will never happen again.
This is not new. Ma makes similar remarks about three times every year: On 228 Memorial Day for victims of the 228 Incident; on July 15, and the anniversary of the end of the 38-year Martial Law era, to White Terror victims and their families; and to both groups of people on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
Ma might wonder why most people still do not believe that he is sincere about what he says, as he has repeated such remarks each year since he was sworn in as president in 2008 — even starting in 1998 when he was elected mayor of Taipei. However, why should people believe him, especially when his government nominates a former military prosecutor, who took part in persecuting pro-democracy activists, including the late Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介), former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and former DPP chairman Shih Ming-te (施明德), following the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979?
Moreover, when facing criticism from lawmakers and human rights groups over the nomination, Minister of Justice Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) defended her decision by saying that Lin is an excellent candidate, and that the Kaohsiung Incident is something that happened “a long time ago.”
True, 1979 might be “a long time ago,” but how could the public trust a person who played a key role in persecuting political dissidents to serve on the Council of Grand Justices, and to defend the fundamental values as laid out in the Constitution?
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a girl named Anna Rosmus from Passau, Germany, tried to dig into the city’s past during the Third Reich. Although it was said that the city’s leading figures and prominent families helped to resist the Nazis, her research found that they were not only collaborators, but active Nazi members, and even helped to send 400 of the city’s Jews to concentration camps. Rosmus faced tremendous pressure and threats when conducting the research, and even had to file lawsuits to access the city’s archives.
It has been 36 years since the Kaohsiung Incident, about the same amount of time since the end of World War II when Rosmus began her research on the town’s Nazi past, and those in power in Passau were still trying to cover up what happened “a long time ago.”
Therefore, it might not be that difficult to imagine how Lin would react, for example, if someone filed a complaint stating that it is unconstitutional for the government to keep certain files related to political persecutions classified and prohibit public access to them.
If someone who is part of the injustice is allowed to serve on the Council of Grand Justices, how could the public expect Ma to fulfill his promises about compensating victims and their families, or for transitional justice to ever occur?