A necessary step toward achieving full transitional justice in Taiwan is to properly assign blame for its bloody past on the individuals who were responsible for the repression, academics said at a forum in Taipei yesterday contrasting Europe’s de-Nazification efforts with the restoration of dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) name at one of Taipei’s main landmarks.
Work to replace the name plaque at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall with its original name — Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall — began without prior notification close to midnight on Monday.
The move drew criticism from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which said that a murderous dictator like Chiang should never be commemorated in public spaces.
While all academics attending the forum hosted by the DPP criticized the government’s decision to rename the hall, some said it was perhaps necessary to find ways to condemn Chiang without smearing the entire Mainlander population in Taiwan.
Wang Szu-wei (王思為), an assistant professor at Nanhua University’s department of nonprofit organization management, said that in Europe, it would be unfathomable for any government to erect a public monument to honor Adolf Hitler.
Moreover, to show the government’s determination to never repeat Hitler’s behavior and its contrition for the millions of victims of the infamous leader, Berlin has contributed money and effort to compensate the victims as well as educate the public on the truth about Hitler’s regime, he said.
“What Chiang did to Taiwanese was enough to be described as a crime against humanity. It is only because Taiwan is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court that the case has not been brought before The Hague,” he said.
He also condemned the use of taxpayers’ money to commemorate the dictator.
Tamkang University public administration professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正峰) said that while condemning Chiang was essential, it was crucial that this be done in a way that does not target all the Mainlanders in Taiwan.
“We often talk about collective memory, but the problem is, whose memory should we go by? We need to uncover the truth of what Chiang did — both the good and the bad,” he said.
National Chengchi University history professor Hsueh Hua-yuen (薛化元) told the forum that what continues to serve as a wedge between Taiwan’s ethnic groups was the lack of blame assigned to the individuals who were responsible for the crimes committed under the Chiang regime.
A good number of Mainlanders” were also victimized during the White Terror era and it would be beneficial to ethnic harmony if the public — both ethnic Taiwanese and Mainlanders — could focus on their collective memory of that period, he said.