The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus has drafted its own transitional justice legislation. The bill includes proposals to extend the scope of the transitional justice investigations to the start of the Japanese colonial period, all the way back to 1895.
It also wants a re-examination of the significance of the 1949 Battle of Guningtou — also known as the Battle of Kinmen — and the 823 Artillery Bombardment of 1958.
Both battles saw KMT forces defending Taiwan against a military offensive from China.
This is a transparent attempt by the KMT to divert attention from the government’s determination to address abuses of power visited upon the Taiwanese by the KMT regime during the authoritarian period it initiated when it arrived after the Chinese Civil War.
It is also an attempt to skew the discussion away from the atrocities committed by the KMT regime and to focus the conversation more on how the KMT “saved” Taiwan from the dreaded Chinese Communist Party that it now cozies up to.
Far from being interested in mitigating some of the damage it wrought on Taiwanese during the Martial Law era, it is trying to gloss over the truth, stymie attempts to seek redress, and protect its own legacy and reputation. It is a cornered beast, wounded by the initial sallies of the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee that have seen its accounts and assets frozen and its financial liquidity severely curtailed.
The idea of the KMT acting purely in its own interest is nothing new. That it is doing so by accusing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of exacting a witch-hunt against it is frankly, to anyone informed about Taiwanese history, risible for its hypocrisy.
It is true that atrocities and injustices were carried out against the Taiwanese and Aborigines by the Japanese as they sought to suppress the local population after Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895.
Nevertheless, if redress is to be sought for injustices committed more than 100 years ago, why not go back to the Qing Dynasty? To Koxinga? Why not seek compensation from the Dutch?
These are not entirely facetious questions.
There has been serious debate on how Australians should address the confiscation of Aboriginal lands. There has been a rigorous debate, too, on how Britain should deal with the legacy of its rule in India, which lasted either almost 100 years or three centuries, depending on how you wish to define it. The list goes on.
The difference is that the above debates are sincere in exploring what is just and how to seek redress. The KMT, with its proposals for transitional justice legislation, is more preoccupied with saving its own skin.
During a speech on March 20 to the Presidential Office’s Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that the committee’s goals in achieving transitional justice are to ascertain historical truth, promote debate, and to explore policy ideas to steer the nation toward reconciliation and to assuage historical wounds.
So far, the government has introduced the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations (政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理條例) to deal with the assets and property the KMT obtained through dubious means. It has also determined to open up the historical archives pertaining to the Martial Law era.