President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that the government must strike a balance between preserving a park commemorating victims of military repression during the Martial Law Era and installing cultural items.
Ma made the remarks after inspecting the Taiwan Human Rights Memorial in Sindian City (新店市), Taipei County.
Inspecting the compound, Ma said the management of the park should pay attention to the feelings of the victims and their families and showcase the administration’s resolve to protect human rights.
“When we face history, we must take matters on their merits. That is what I call honesty,” the president said. “When we face the victims and their families, we must judge their feelings by our own feelings. That is what I call compassion, but to fell compassion for someone is not to take pity on them.”
Ma said he hoped to see a park where the public could come and relax, learn about human rights, and where artists could exhibit their works.
The park has caused controversy because of a change of its name and designation. The Council for Cultural Affairs decided to change its name to Jingmei Cultural Park without consulting former political prisoners who were once jailed there. The council also said it would allow artistic groups to use rooms — and alter the interior if necessary — in buildings on the grounds.
The decision drew strong opposition from human rights activists and was criticized by many former political prisoners as a way for the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to gloss over parts of its sordid past.
The memorial was created in 2007 on the site of the former Jingmei military detention center, where thousands of political dissidents were tried and jailed during the White Terror period.
Seeking to allay the public outcry, the Executive Yuan recently agreed to change the name to Jingmei Human Rights and Cultural Park.
Ma said, after carefully looking into the matter, that he and the Council of Cultural Affairs had been criticized unfairly as they had not intended any cover-up nor had the council changed the name of the park.
“The Green Island Cultural Park [in Taitung County] was not called a human rights park either when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power,” Ma said.
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