On Tuesday last week, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Tainan mayoral candidate Kao Su-po (高思博) unveiled Taiwan’s first memorial to World War II “comfort women,” which stands close to the party’s Tainan chapter and faces the historic Hayashi Department Store.
Ma denounced the Democratic Progressive Party government for doing nothing about the issue, which it said should be included in the process of transitional justice.
During World War II many young Taiwanese women were forced to serve as comfort women, and deserve to have their reputations restored and even demand compensation.
However, we must ask why Ma did not speak out on this issue during his eight-year presidency.
In view of his choice to unveil the memorial statue with Kao in the run-up to the year-end election, one cannot help but wonder whether bringing the issue up at this time is not an example of political manipulation and exploitation.
The telephone number of the Tainan Association for Comfort Women’s Rights, which built the memorial, is the number of the KMT’s Tainan chapter office, showing that the association is an appendage of the KMT.
What does Ma have to say about the years of the KMT’s authoritarian one-party rule, when army-run brothels known as “special teahouses” (特約茶室) or “army paradises” (軍中樂園) provided sexual services to servicemen on the heavily garrisoned islands of Kinmen and Matsu?
The historical fact is that the KMT forced women to work as military prostitutes, and documents have come to light which show that even underage girls were tricked into going to Kinmen, where they had to work under inhuman conditions, serving 3,000 clients in three months.
The KMT seeks to cover up its misdeeds by claiming that these young women went to work there of their own free will and enjoyed good pay and conditions. To avoid dual standards, should Ma not also apologize on behalf of the KMT?
Furthermore, Ma’s trumpeting of transitional justice makes a mockery of democracy in Taiwan. Transitional justice is what a democratic nation does to make up for the illegal and unjust acts of a previous dictatorship. It is about restoring historical truth.
Ma has always avoided talking about the KMT’s dark past, which includes all kinds of anti-democratic actions and human rights violations.
Now we see the same party trying to hoodwink the public by waving the banner of transitional justice.
Less than 50m from the scene of Tuesday’s unveiling ceremony lies the Tang Teh-chang Memorial Park. Tang was a lawyer and community leader who was arrested and shot dead on the street during the military crackdown following the 228 Incident in 1947.
Who killed Tang? The KMT, of course. However, right beside the park is Jhongjheng Road, which bears the honorific name of then-KMT leader and dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), who was one of the 10 biggest mass killers of the 20th century.
If Ma really supports transitional justice, he should support calls for the road to be renamed.
The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi party) was abolished in 1945 and the Spanish Falange was dissolved in 1977, following the fall of those nations’ one-party dictatorships.
By the same standard of transitional justice, the KMT should no longer exist in Taiwan.
Li Chong-lim is director of the Taiwan Radical Wings Party’s organization department.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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