Representatives of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said it was “too early” to begin assessing his historical legacy, as government officials said they were unsure how to proceed with an official account of his presidency.
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday that Academia Historica officials have deviated from past practice by not writing an historical account of Chen’s eight-year administration.
“It is currently not the proper time,” the report quoted Academia Historica deputy chief Chu Chung-sheng (朱崇聖) as saying, after Chen and his wife were sentenced to 19 years for taking bribes and laundering money in November. Chen is currently serving his sentence in Taipei Prison.
However, a spokesperson for the former president said Chen’s presidential legacy should remain independent of the judicial proceedings and maintained that history would eventually judge Chen’s time in office positively.
“I think that a fair and balanced account of [his] presidency will become more apparent in the next 20 to 30 years,” his office manager Jack Chen (陳嘉爵) said.
“Look at Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). He was only deemed to be the instigator of the 228 Incident by Academia Historica 30 years after his death,” he said. “So I think Chen Shui-bian will be judged differently with time.”
Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), also expressed disappointment with the decision, saying several positive developments occurred during Chen Shui-bian’s presidency.
“Maybe Chen Shui-bian is less than ideal in some respects, but he also made a positive difference in many other areas,” she said.
Lu said she was concerned that Academia Historica chose to devote an entire section of its short biographies of past Republic of China presidents online to the controversies that plagued Chen Shui-bian’s second term in office
The institution’s Web site says: “Millions engaged in anti--corruption sit-in protests to demand that Chen step down in 2006,” over allegations that he embezzled secret state funds.
In comparison, the institution credits Chiang with “developing Taiwan” and does not mention of his involvement in the 228 Massacre.
“Based on what can be seen so far, I do not think Academia Historica can write an unbiased account of Chen Shui-bian’s legacy,” Jack Chen said.