Fri, Feb 01, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Justice is about more than just Chiang

By Huang Yan-cheng 黃彥誠

While attending a Lunar New Year banquet for veteran entertainers on Tuesday last week, former singer Lisa Cheng (鄭心儀) slapped Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) because she disagreed with her policy of transforming the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and support for transitional justice.

Interestingly, this incident happened just as Cheng was talking to actor Chen Sung-young (陳松勇), who played Lin Wen-heung (林文雄), the eldest son of the Lin family, in the film A City of Sadness (悲情城市), for which he won the Best Leading Actor award at the 26th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival in 1989, and which became one of his most famous roles.

Director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s (侯孝賢) film was released 30 years ago this year. As well as being honored with the Golden Lion award for best film at the Venice Film Festival, the movie also brought renewed prosperity to its setting — the picturesque town of Jiufen (九份) in the mountains of what is now New Taipei City.

However, the aspect of the film that drew the most attention was that it tackled the sensitive subject of the 228 Incident in 1947.

The film is set when Japan’s colonial rule of Taiwan had just come to an end and the Republic of China’s nationalist government had taken over.

With the tribulations of the Lin family as its central narrative, the film reflects the ways in which Taiwanese reacted to the “return to the motherland,” with hopeful expectation turning into disappointment, anger and frustration. It touches upon matters such as widespread searches, arrests, torture and “forced disappearances.”

Transitional justice is a way for states to compensate for the illegalities and injustices of the past.

The question of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is just one small part of transitional justice in Taiwan, which includes many other issues and processes.

Last year, the government announced two batches of cancelations of guilty verdicts from the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) authoritarian period, thus restoring the reputations of 2,775 victims of political persecution.

Other tasks include opening political files, eliminating the remnants of authoritarianism and conducting investigations into ill-gotten party assets.

All of these fall within the scope of transitional justice, and all have come under fire from the KMT. As transitional justice treads on the toes of vested interests, it can easily provoke backlashes when put into practice.

Due to Taiwan’s complex historical and political background, transitional justice tends to be strongly associated with unification versus independence, and with issues among different communities. This often creates additional obstacles.

Taiwan went through 38 years of martial law and “White Terror,” and more cases of injustice keep emerging.

These cases involve people from every community, including those from various Chinese provinces, as well as Taiwan. “Mainlanders” form a larger proportion of the victims than they do of the general population.

The repression of those years sent many people to their deaths, while countless others lost their security and freedom.

Taiwan’s road to democracy has been very bumpy, and we are only beginning to confront historical mistakes.

Vague opposition to the removal of positive references and symbols to do with Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) is a straw-man argument. We should not allow it to misrepresent the overall core values of transitional justice.

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