Thu, Apr 12, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: A ‘not completely successful’ choice

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee yesterday confirmed former New Taipei City deputy mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) as the party’s candidate for New Taipei City mayor.

Hou has the political experience: He has served as New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu’s (朱立倫) deputy from 2010, and was acting mayor preceding the 2016 presidential election.

However, the nomination is problematic for the progress of transitional justice, which Taiwan needs to go through to determine the truth about tragic events in the Martial Law era, when the then-KMT regime was seeking to repress Taiwanese. Contrition and a willingness to acknowledge the truth of what occurred has to be a huge part of the transition.

In an interview last month, Hou commented on his role as Taipei Police Department Criminal Investigation Division head and the tragically failed 1989 attempted arrest of democracy activist Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), offering a controversial mischaracterization of the incident.

Hou had led a group of police, at the behest of the KMT regime, to Deng’s Freedom Era Weekly magazine office. Deng locked himself in his office and set himself alight, refusing to be taken alive.

During the interview, Hou called the operation a rescue attempt that was “not completely successful.”

It was not a rescue attempt. Hou and the officers under his charge had gone to arrest Deng for having the audacity to print a proposal for a constitution for a “Republic of Taiwan,” an action the KMT regime deemed seditious.

It is important that transitional justice does not become a partisan tool for attacking political foes. The KMT should be allowed to move on and Hou’s part in carrying out the orders of his superiors in the dark days of the White Terror — which technically ended in 1987 with the lifting of martial law — and in the immediate aftermath can be mitigated to an extent by historical context.

He was, after all, only following orders, which in itself, is historically a problematic line of defense. However, to move forward, contrition and acknowledgment are needed.

Hou is asking voters for permission to lead one of the nation’s major cities. We need someone who is also willing to lead the conversation over what transitional justice is and how it is to be achieved.

By calling the failed arrest a “not completely successful” rescue attempt was Hou attempting to mischaracterize the truth to avoid the painful truth of his role in Deng’s death?

If so, he is betraying an inability to show the contrition that he and the KMT are going to need.

Was he disingenuously propagating the untruth that the KMT had no real culpability in the events of the White Terror era?

If so, it suggests that he is the personification of the lack of contrition and attempts to distort history that are the very things transitional justice is seeking to redress.

Or does Hou truly believe his mischaracterization?

If that is the case, then he is demonstrating that he is an unreconstructed relic of the pre-democratic era.

That the KMT has decided to field him for New Taipei City mayor suggests that it, too, remains an unreconstructed relic.

For its part in the events, the KMT can be forgiven. For its refusal to acknowledge responsibility, it cannot.

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