Tsai vows to open White Terror files

‘JUSTICE’::Declassifying major cases and ascertaining responsibility for persecution is an important task, President Tsai Ing-wen told an exoneration ceremony in Taipei

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Jul 08, 2019 - Page 1

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said she would press the National Security Bureau and other agencies to declassify major cases from the White Terror era as she presided over a ceremony in Taipei yesterday marking the exoneration of 2,006 political victims.

“We must strive to seek justice and restore historical truths,” she said at the event, which was organized by the Transitional Justice Commission to exonerate people persecuted during the White Terror era under the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) authoritarian rule.

The ceremony was held for people whose names were cleared by the commission on its third and fourth list of exoneration published on Feb. 27 and May 30.

Some of the victims attended the ceremony, while those who had died were represented by family members.

The lists include people who were persecuted in the aftermath of the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident, including former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), long-time democracy activist Shih Ming-te (施明德) and Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu (陳菊).

Lei Chen (雷震), an intellectual and early democracy advocate who in 1950 founded the magazine Free China (自由中國), was also exonerated.

Pointing to lawmakers’ passage of the Political Archives Act (政治檔案法) on Thursday, Tsai said that regulations are now in place for the collection, review and declassification of documents on political cases.

“It is important to open these files and ascertain responsibilities for these cases so that we can learn and take lessons from history,” she said.

Regarding public concern over the incident and the death of dissident and Carnegie Mellon University associate professor of mathematics Chen Wen-chen (陳文成) in 1981, Tsai said: “These were sealed as secret files, never to be opened. I will take the lead to press the bureau and related national security agencies to reassess these files and to declassify them as much as possible.”

Chen Wen-chen returned to Taipei on May 20, 1981, for the first time since leaving for graduate studies in the US in 1975 to introduce his baby son to his parents.

However, after being taken away for questioning by Taiwan Garrison Command officers on July 2, his body was found outside a building on the National Taiwan University campus the next day. The authorities said he might have committed suicide, but his family has maintained that he was murdered by the then-KMT regime for his pro-democratic views. His case remains unsolved.

Tsai and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) gave bouquets of flowers to the exonerated people, most of whom are elderly, and those who were representing their family members who were exonerated posthumously.

Chen Chu attended the event as a former political prisoner.

“We were pursuing freedom and democracy, and were not guilty of any crime... Many political prisoners and their families have waited a lifetime to see this day,” she said.

“We were fighting ... so that Taiwan could have a fair and just society... Today I see that many political prisoners and their families are at an advanced age, and they should not bear the burden of being ‘a convicted criminal’ when they depart this world,” Chen Chu said.

Additional reporting by CNA