Hsieh Wen-ting (謝文定), a commissioner at the Commission on the Disciplinary Sanctions of Functionaries, was a prosecutor during the Martial Law period.
That makes him a perpetrator of the judicial wrongs that took place under martial law, so it came as quite a shock to hear about President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) nomination of Hsieh to be the next president of the Judicial Yuan.
Many wrongful verdicts were made during the Martial Law era and Hsieh’s role as a prosecutor made him an accomplice to those wrongdoings.
Hsieh was even praised by former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) for his “outstanding service.”
Tsai’s nomination of someone with such a background leaves the question of what kind of transitional justice she has in mind.
Tsai used to be a professor of law, so she can hardly be unaware that prosecutors during the Martial Law era were institutional perpetrators and, as such, they are criminals who should be brought to account.
Even though the judicial system let them go during the Martial Law period, they should not be allowed to come back and wield judicial power. A mechanism for them to leave the system should have been instituted long ago.
Tsai has repeatedly talked about how she wants to implement transitional justice, but now she wants to let perpetrators become protectors of the judicial system.
This is the complete opposite of what should be done and has made Taiwan an international laughingstock.
During the Martial Law era, not only did the perpetrators bear no responsibility for their mistakes — they were also not held accountable for their crimes. In those days, it seemed like a normal state of affairs for people to be deprived of their human rights.
Generations of long-suffering Taiwanese, using peaceful means, gave their blood and sweat, their youth and their lives to win the precious democracy and freedom that this nation enjoys today.
However, the fact that the perpetrators were not put on trial does not mean that Taiwan can no longer judge right from wrong.
The reason that Germany’s transitional justice won the respect of people around the world is that it has continued to pursue those responsible, putting them on trial if necessary. The perpetrators of murderous crimes in the past are held liable for the rest of their lives — there is no statute of limitations for them.
In Taiwan, where the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) remained in power after the end of martial law, transitional justice was never even touched upon.
Even before martial law was lifted, the KMT was worried that the perpetrators would be held to account, so the government drew up a law that protected the perpetrators by not allowing them to be held criminally liable. As a result, when Taiwan tackles cases of wrongful verdicts from the Martial Law era, there are only victims, but no perpetrators.
Not only does this absurdity remain unresolved, in Tsai’s mind it is no longer very important, and that is why she has forgotten about the existence of perpetrators from that period.
As Taiwan has never held fair trials, there is no clarity about right and wrong. That is how the perpetrators have been able to use half-truths to create disputes and confrontations in society — to the extent that even the president cannot tell right from wrong.
Liou Uie-liang is a former president of the Taiwan Association in Germany.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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