Fri, Dec 21, 2018 - Page 8 News List

State violence cannot be forgiven

By Lin Tai-ho 林泰和

In a bid to redress injustices, the Transitional Justice Commission in October and this month exonerated 2,775 people who were wrongly convicted during the White Terror era — the commission’s most prominent and substantial achievement since its establishment.

The exoneration addressed the injustice imposed upon their reputations and washed away the stain of guilt, but it can never repay them for the lives they lost or help survivors retrieve their youth, nor can it reverse society’s unjust discrimination, and the nation’s unlawful treatment of them and their families as they grew up.

These traumatic incidents caused by the Republic of China’s (ROC) state terrorism bear profound significance. The state apparatus is responsible for protecting the public and upholding human rights, but the perpetrators of state terrorism abused the system, which was supported by the public, to trample on human rights. Facing the trauma inflicted by state terrorism, it is necessary to understand that to truly carry out transitional justice, state violence can never be forgiven.

Generally speaking, forgiveness can only be applied to cases that are redeemable and for which atonement can be made. Only in such cases will those who forgive be able to establish a foundation for reconciliation, redemption and atonement. However, if forgiveness is only possible if there is redemption and atonement, is it still “forgiveness?” Is a forgivable evil still “evil”? If so, in a political and judicial context, forgiveness is but an exercise in therapy through compromise, forgiveness for a particular goal and thus a political expedient an a matter of psychotherapy.

French philosopher Jacques Derrida believed that true forgiveness is only possible for something that cannot be forgiven.

“Forgiveness forgives only the unforgivable,” he wrote.

For Derrida, evil intent and evil actions cannot be forgiven, because they are essentially evil. Moreover, such evil is “irreversible” and “capable of repeating itself, unforgivably, without transformation, without amelioration, without repentance or promise.”

In the past few months, the opposition has gone to every length to amplify former commission deputy chairman Chang Tien-chin’s (張天欽) improper reference to the commission as Dong Chang (東廠), the Ming Dynasty-era secret police and spy agency. Ironically, opposition legislators staged a prolonged boycott of a legislative session on International Human Rights Day to question the legitimacy of the Cabinet’s appointment of commission Acting Chairwoman Yang Tsui (楊翠). They even pushed over a desk to express their discontent and disrupt the session, during which the commission’s annual plan and budget was to be reviewed.

The protest showed the opposition’s complete lack of self-reflection and remorse, just like the party that ruled during the White Terror era, and led the execution of state terror and violence. A successful opposition mayoral candidate in one of the six special municipalities who led a group of police officers who intended to arrest democracy advocate Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) said during his election campaign that after reflection, he has a clear conscience and feels no regret.

When asked whether he would make the same choice if he could turn back the clock, he said that if an arrest warrant were reissued, he would still follow orders as an entry-level police officer should do and attempt to arrest Deng. There was not the slightest regret.

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