On the eve of the International Human Rights Day, the Presidential Office's Human Rights Consulting Committee yesterday unveiled its list of the top 10 political injustices of the martial law era.
The timing of the announcement was meant "to highlight the administration's determination and commitment to uphold human rights as the guiding hand in its governing as well as to remind all compatriots to cherish the fruit of democracy," said Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who is also the committee's director.
Lu said the committee will release a list of "Human Right Persecutors" on May 19 -- a date chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the promulgation of martial law on May 19, 1949.
Martial law was not lifted until July 15, 1987.
"Many of those who violated human rights got off scot-free," Lu said. "Some of them still work in government agencies today."
The committee decided to hold off releasing the list of rights abusers because of tomorrow's elections, said Lu, who was jailed for sedition for her role in the Kaohsiung Incident.
"While the statute of limitations might have expired [for prosecuting such cases], we need to continue to look into these issues for history's sake," she said, adding that the committee was not motivated by revenge but by a desire to explain history.
She said the committee wanted to "to find out on whose order" people were persecuted.
Lu said according to an investigation by former DPP legislator and political prisoner Hsieh Tsong-min (
The review of cases was co-sponsored by groups such the National Archives Bureau, the Council of Cultural Affairs and the Compensation Foundation for Improper Verdicts on Sedition and Communist Espionage Cases during the Martial Law Period.
The selection of the cases was based on the number of victims involved, the significance of the case and level of absurdity, among others factors, said Chen I-Shen (陳儀深), a committee member.
The top 10 cases include those of Lei Chen (雷震), Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and the Kaohsiung Incident.
Lei, a founder and publisher of the Free China Journal was arrested on Sep. 4, 1960 for treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison on the behest of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) because of the magazine's pro-democracy stance. The magazine, which was launched in 1950, was then closed.
Peng was the co-author of the 1964 Declaration of Taiwan Self-Salvation. Publication of the declaration landed him in jail. He later spent more than 20 years in exile.
The Kaohsiung Incident occurred on Dec. 10, 1979 when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government imprisoned participants in an anti-government parade organized by Formosa magazine.