President Chen Shui-bian (
"We know the wounds caused by the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) half-century authoritarian rule and the 38-year Martial Law era it imposed will not heal in our generation, but we pledge to do our best to prevent a comeback of anti-reform, anti-democracy and anti-Taiwan forces," Chen said.
Chen made the remarks at an academic symposium on human rights and political issues.
Since its coming to power in 2000, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been active in granting compensation to victims of the White Terror era and redressing miscarriages of justices. Chen said, however, that doing so has not led to more unity and harmony within the nation.
"This is because we haven't brought the oppressors to justice. Until that is achieved, there will be no reconciliation, let alone forgiveness, because there has been no truth," he said.
Chen said the DPP administration's efforts over the past year to rename public establishments making references to dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) were the first step toward ending the cult of personality that emerged during the single party regime.
Chen said the Cabinet's renaming Chiang Kai-shek International Airport Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall were examples of that policy.
The Cabinet also abolished the commemoration days marking Chiang's birth and passing -- Oct. 31 and April 5 respectively -- and will soon renovate the memorial hall's portals to replace inscription alluding to Chiang's name with the new heading "Freedom Plaza," he said.
Chen said Taiwan must stick to the reforms to help the nation "emerge from the shadows and shackles of martial law and become a truly free, normal and complete democracy."
Chen then defended the plan to replace the inscription dazhong zhizheng (大中至正) at the entry arch at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall with "Liberty Square" (自由廣場).
"[Chiang] was a dictator whose hands were full of the blood of Taiwanese people. Only when we stop worshipping him can we become a normal and democratic country," he said.
Tsai Tsing-yen (蔡清彥), president of the Foundation for Compensation for Improper Trials During the Martial Law Era, said that as of last month 8,696 individuals had filed requests for name clearance.
Data from the Ministry of Justice showed that 3,000 to 8,000 people were executed following the 228 Incident, a military crackdown on civilian protests that started on Feb. 28, 1947. Other statistics showed that the former government cancelled the registrations of 126,875 people whose whereabouts were unknown as of 1960, Chen said.
At the symposium, Christian Schafferer, an Austrian at the Overseas Chinese Institute of Technology in Taiwan, presented a paper on the perception of transitional justice in Taiwan.
"The KMT rule of Taiwan is known to the world as a period of great economic achievement. However, few are willing to accept that the KMT government was involved in the widespread and systematic torture and killings of tens of thousands of civilians," he said.
Additional reporting by CNA