A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator is asking the government to make public its official records pertaining to the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident, saying the public deserves a better understanding of the brutal police crackdown.
On Dec. 10, 1979, tens of thousands of pro-democracy activists were surrounded by military police and dispersed using tear gas during a human rights march in Kaohsiung. Prominent leaders of the movement were arrested, charged with sedition and tried in military courts.
The legal team that defended the activists, the latter of which included former DPP chairman Shih Ming-te (施明德) and former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), later formed the core of a new democracy movement and were some of the founding members of the main opposition party. Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), a young lawyer at the time, would later become president.
DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) yesterday said any efforts to commemorate the movement would be incomplete if it did not include an official government account of the crackdown. She said many questions remained unresolved, including the unsolved murder of former DPP chairperson Lin I-hsiung’s (林義雄) family following the crackdown.
The Council of Cultural Affairs is expected to spend about NT$2.5 million (US$78,772) on building a showcase for historical documents relating to the Kaohsiung Incident as part of its larger exhibition on the incident. In addition, it is set to spend NT$950,000 on an investigation of such documents.
However, Chen Chia-chun (陳嘉君), Shih’s wife, yesterday held up dozens of letters bearing personal accounts that would be part of the showcase, saying none were from government officials or could help form an official account of the decision-making process during the crackdown.
She accused President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of playing a key role in the refusal to release the documents, citing his sensitive role in the crackdown. At the time, Ma was deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration.
“Only through these documents can the truth behind our history be revealed. These files are the key to our past,” Chen said.
Huang Hui-chun (黃惠君), executive director of the New Taiwan Foundation who is studying the Kaohsiung Incident, said the only piece of the puzzle still missing in the investigation into the crackdown was the official account.
A council official said that while the agency would continue its investigation into the missing documents, it could not make any promises.