Mon, Jan 22, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: A personal response to the transitional justice act

OPERATION BLACKLIST:Former foreign minister Mark Chen, who left Taiwan to study in the US in 1964, said that he faced difficulties in renewing his passport and applying for visas to return home after landing on the blacklist

By Huang Tai-lin  /  Staff reporter

The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) authoritarian regime was notorious for its mass surveillance of the public, and the omnipresence of the Taiwan Garrison Command and its secret security apparatus was a key element that invoked fear in the White Terror era within and without Taiwan.

While stories of the torments and agony suffered by those who fell into the hands of the Taiwan Garrison Command have been unearthed by historians since the nation’s democratization in 1990s, few have documented the work or impact of the command.

The passage of the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例) on Dec. 5 last year has brought renewed attention to the command’s use of student informers — euphemistically known as “professional students” (職業學生) — who worked as campus spies overseas for the command.

The new law requires the Executive Yuan to set up an independent committee to implement transitional justice measures specified by the law, including the retrieval of political records from political parties and affiliated organizations that are determined to be documents belonging in the national archives.

Documents from the nation-state era that are in the KMT’s possession are likely a treasure trove of historical information and a number of historians have said they hope the party will turn such papers over to the state.

Such documents could shed light on the so-called “Overseas Blacklist,” a list drawn up by the KMT regime — likely as a result of information supplied by student informants — of dissidents it did not want returning to Taiwan.

One such victim of the KMT government’s blacklist is Prospect Foundation chairman Mark Chen (陳唐山), a former Presidential Office secretary-general, foreign minister and secretary-general of the National Security Council.

Chen went to the US in 1964 to enroll in a master’s program at the University of Oklahoma. Thanks to his advocacy of Taiwanese independence, he was blacklisted from returning home for 29 years, until Article 100 of the Criminal Code, which restricted freedom of expression, was amended in 1992.

“In the river of the nation’s history spanning from the 228 Massacre, the blacklist, the Wild Lily [movement] and the Sunflower [movement] — where young people rose and challenged authorities — the blacklist era lasted the longest, and had a global reach that deeply affected Taiwan’s democratization,” Chen wrote in his autobiography, The Blacklist and Foreign Minister — Mark Chen’s Memoir (黑名單與外交部長 陳唐山回憶錄), which was published in November last year.

In a recent interview with the Taipei Times, Chen recalled the KMT’s autocratic rule.

“The authorities used the same tactics in dealing with people who had absolutely nothing to do with the communists, as we had seen in the 228 Incident. As such, many Taiwanese dared not speak out at home in Taiwan,” he said.

“We were forced to shut up when we were in Taiwan. However, since we [overseas students] were not in Taiwan anymore, but breathing the air of freedom in the US, if we did not do something to change Taiwan, we would let the people who raised and provided for us in Taiwan down,” he said. “With the conscience of intelligentsia, we had the responsibility to help make Taiwan a democracy.”

Asked why presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) thought it necessary to conduct surveillance on those overseas, Chen said: “It was because the regime was afraid that we might create a disturbance or something [challenging their authority]. So ‘professional students’ were planted on campus, mingled with us and collected information on whom, in their opinion, might revolt.”

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