The National Women’s League’s decision on Wednesday not to surrender itself to transitional justice and set an example for other alleged Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) affiliates has once again proved that denial, self-justification and fear of change continue to be major hurdles on the nation’s path to closing the book on its authoritarian past.
Established in 1950 by then-president Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) wife, Soong Mayling (宋美齡), the league was initially known as the Anti-Communism and Anti-USSR Women’s League of the Republic of China, and aimed to unite the female population to take care of the families of soldiers that retreated to Taiwan with the Chiang and the KMT in 1949.
Between 1955 and 1989, it is estimated that the league accumulated NT$24.03 billion (US$823 million at the current exchange rate) from the so-called Military Benefit Tax, a tariff levied on the US dollar value of all imported goods during the period.
The amount would climb to NT$52.6 billion if inflation was factored in, or to NT$349.8 billion if interest was added, according to a report published on July 12 last year by the Cabinet’s Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee.
Some members of the league have lambasted the Democratic Progressive Party administration for labeling the league a KMT affiliate simply because it was founded by the wife of a dictator who ruled Taiwan for 25 years under a party-state system.
“Today’s women no longer have to take their husband’s name. Even back then, I doubt Chiang would dare to say his wife was his ‘affiliate,’” former KMT lawmaker Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛), a league member, told a news conference on Tuesday.
Pan even went so far as to draw a parallel between the committee’s probe of the league and the #MeToo online movement against sexual harassment.
The assumption that a wife is dependent on and tied to her husband in every aspect of her life is a patriarchal and politically incorrect concept.
However, Soong’s league is suspected of being affiliated with the KMT, not because of an outdated assumption, but because she headed both the league and the working meetings of the KMT’s Central Women’s Department, and had control over the personnel decisions for both bodies.
The anti-reform camp within the league has failed to address how a non-profit foundation was able to accumulate such a large amount of assets, if not through its link to the KMT regime, which allowed it to receive the military tax.
Blatantly ignoring these facts only suggests denial and blind self-justification on the league’s part and benefits neither the government nor the league itself.
The league’s continued denial has cost the government resources and manpower in the form of months of negotiations.
The league’s decision to renege on a memorandum of understanding to sign an administrative contract — which would have guaranteed its voluntary dissolution and donation of 90 percent of its total assets, or about NT$34.3 billion, to the state — will only see more government resources wasted on dealing with the league.
The decision will hardly ensure what the league says would be justice. It only delays the inevitable, which is the return of money the league amassed during the KMT’s party-state rule.
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