Main defendant Chiang Fang Chih-yi (蔣方智怡) on Friday responded to criticism that she had not done enough to preserve the diaries of former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), at a hearing at the Taipei District Court in a case brought by the Academia Historica.
Ownership of the diaries is to be decided by the outcome of the hearing, after a US court said it would await the local court’s decision on the matter.
The Academia Historica has since 2012 contended with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and Chiang Fang for the right to own and archive the former presidents’ diaries, as well as private documents.
Chiang Fang came into custody of the diaries through her husband, Chiang Hsiao-yung (蔣孝勇), the youngest son of Chiang Ching-kuo.
After their deaths, Chiang Hsiao-yung was entrusted with his father’s and grandfather’s diaries, private papers and government documents. In 2005, Chiang Fang gave her consent for the diaries to be deposited at the Hoover Institution for a period of 50 years.
Chiang Kai-shek’s personal diaries stretch from 1915 to July 1972, while Chiang Ching-kuo’s diaries record his experiences from 1937 to 1980.
Stanford University appealed to the US District Court in San Jose, California, to arbitrate rightful ownership in 2013. The District Court in San Jose on Sept. 2, 2015, said it would put off the arbitration until the Academia Historica obtained a court ruling in its favor in Taiwan.
Thirteen claimants from the Chiang family, including Chiang Fang, were listed as defendants in the case.
The institute said the diaries belonged to the Republic of China as stipulated by the Presidential and Vice Presidential Records and Artifacts Act (總統副總統文物管理條例).
Academia Historica said that eight defendants to date had agreed to drop their ownership claims to the diaries and it would not exclude the possibility of settling the issue with the defendants.
The institute would remain strictly neutral and all documents retrieved would be made available to the public, following the example of the Chiang Kai-shek presidential files, it said.
Court hearings in Taiwan began on Nov. 11 last year. After two failed arbitrations, the case is now entering legal proceedings.
Chiang Fang told the court that she was certain the two former presidents would have agreed that the diaries should be turned over to the Academia Historica and added she hoped legal proceedings could be avoided and all parties could come to a settlement out of court.
However, she “could not accept” allegations that she had illegally seized the diaries and all papers, Chiang Fang said.
Her husband had authorized her to “transfer the diaries and all papers to a credible academic establishment for preservation” and after he passed away she thus assumed full ownership of the documents, she said.
Chiang Fang said she could understand criticism that she had not done enough to preserve the diaries and papers, but she could not accept being called a thief.
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