The Taiwan Association for Truth and Reconciliation (TATR) yesterday urged the National Archives to declassify confidential files relating to political cases during the White Terror period from 1949 to 1987, so that the public might learn what really happened during that time.
Although martial law was lifted in 1987 and there have been countless research articles, essays and books published about political cases during the Martial Law era, many historians and families of political prisoners have yet to find out what really happened.
This is because many law enforcement agencies, as well as the National Archives, have not made public all the classified files about political cases during that period of Taiwan’s history, the TATR said at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
“The authoritarian period is one of the most important phases in Taiwan’s history, especially because it was the beginning period of the Republic of China on Taiwan. There are many issues for us to understand, to think about and to be alerted about — unfortunately, our understanding of the era is still fragmented, or even biased,” said Academia Sinica research fellow Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德), who is also a TATR board member.
“This is because the state has not been making classified files from the era available to the public and thus our understanding of the era is fragmented, superficial, mistaken and confrontational,” he added.
“What we’ve lost is not only the truth, but also justice for the victims,” he said.
Kuo Chia-cheng (郭嘉承), son of a former army officer, Kuo Ting-liang (郭廷亮), who was accused of sedition in 1955 — which led to the 33-year-long house arrest of his superior, General Sun Li-jen (孫立人), for “failing to supervise subordinates” until 1988 — agreed with Wu.
To this date, Kuo Chia-cheng — who believes that his father was falsely accused and the aftermath happened only because of conflicts within the army — is still unable to view all the original files about the case, because the National Archives said that they needed to “protect the privacy” of other people involved in the case.
“This matter is not only about finding the truth, it’s also about restoring the honor of an army officer,” Kuo Chia-cheng said.
On the other hand, another TATR board member, Yen Chueh-an (顏厥安), who is also a professor at National Taiwan University’s Department of Law, said that although the Archives Act (檔案法) stipulates that the government may turn down requests to view classified files under certain conditions, “Article 22 of the law says that files more than 30 years old should be made public.”
“The files might cause pain to some people, but without the truth, there would be no cure for the injuries and no reconciliation,” Yen said.
“The process is a must for a democratic transition,” he added.