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Monday, December 14, 2009

Ma's apology, empty words or transitional justice?

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) recently bowed and apologized to political dissidents and their families for the abuses of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government during the White Terror era.

Many readers may have noticed by now that Ma likes to say one thing in public but do exactly the opposite when people are not paying much attention, and here is what happened this year under his administration.

The opposition lawmakers and human rights activists in March this year slammed the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau for dumping confidential files and body parts of deceased political prisoners incarcerated during the authoritarian period of Kuomintang rule in an abandoned building and demanded that the materials be promptly transferred to the National Archives Administration.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) accused President Ma in July this year of insincerity in promoting reconciliation with victims of political persecution. Ma’s paying tribute to dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and changing the name of the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall back to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall showed that the Ma government has never reviewed the massacre conducted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

The replacement of the plaque began at about 8:10am on July 20, 2009 after some 300 police officers secured the hall with barricades overnight (like thieves that are most active at night!) and put up an official document stating that the hall would be closed for 24 hours for “official business.” Workers cut the granite plaque bearing the title “National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall” that hung over the main building into pieces. The removal was completed by noon, after which workers proceeded to reinstate the Chiang plaque. The replacement project cost NT$1.1 million (US$33,000) according to the Ministry of Education, which is in charge of the restoration.

For Ma, bowing his head didn’t cost anything, but restoring the Liberty Square’s hall back to the dead dictator’s name cost every taxpayer money.

This past spring when Ma announced it would reinvestigate two of the remaining unsolved murder cases from 1980 and 1981, many people hoped that new information would be found. The murder of the mother and twin daughters of then-imprisoned provincial assemblyman Lin Yi-hsiung (林義雄) on Feb. 28, 1980, and the death and apparent murder of Chen Wen-cheng (陳文成), a Taiwanese professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, on July 3, 1981, following his interrogation by the Taiwan Garrison Command created great concern in Taiwan.

On March 13, 2009, the chief prosecutor brought together Taipei prosecutors, the police, the Bureau of Investigation, forensic experts and detective bureaus to begin the new investigation.
Unfortunately, the recently released 50-page report reveals almost nothing new.

Instead, the report repeated the old line that “Lin’s neighbors identified him as going twice to Lin’s house at noon on the day of the case ... Thus, Bruce Jacobs became the first object of suspicion of the special investigation team. But Bruce Jacobs denied he went to the Lin family house at noon on that day and pressed the door bell. Furthermore, the police had searched his home and did not discover any evidence.

Dr. Bruce Jacobs, a professor at Monash University in Australia was in Taipei at the time of the murder and was held in detention by the police for several months as the chief murder suspect in order to deflect attention from the KMT and from how a murderer could enter, kill these people, and leave in broad daylight while the house was under 24-hour KMT surveillance. One does not have to read between the lines to see how this gives the lie to Ma's alleged concern for rectifying the past.

Bruce Jacobs still believes that in order to examine the record properly, the files of the many security agencies need a complete re-examination. Only then can Taiwan begin the genuine Truth and Reconciliation process necessary to heal the wounds from the past.

Where have the files of Taiwan’s White Terror victims gone? Wang Hsi-ling 汪希苓 is one of those KMT top guys who may have some of the answers if the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau hasn’t dumped away all the files.

Under the KMT’s administration, Taiwan’s transitional justice still has a long way to go.

Ma is good in displaying his “sorrow” for KMT’s brutality during the White terror, but his administration has only empty words and no actions despite his “sincere” apology.

Let’s examine Ma’s role during Taiwan’s White Terror era, was Ma Ying-jeou a “professional student” spying on Taiwan’s students in US? The following 6 links provide some clues.

哈佛教授指證 馬英九是校園間諜 (My comment: I hope this law professor can stand up for justice now, otherwise he might as well quit teaching law)


Comment left by a former MIT’s Taiwan graduate student at this article, Fallout from Chen Shui-Bian's Dramatic Arrest:
Posted By: liuchen_ly (November 21, 2008 at 2:33 PM)
Thank you, Ms. Liu, for an excellent article. What Ma administration did to Taiwanese is despicable and extremely disappointing, but hardly surprising. I was a graduate student at MIT when Ma was studying in Harvard. It was well known among the students from Taiwan that Ma was paid by the KMT to spy on pro-Taiwan independence students and to report to the KMT government. Such activities created “white terror” even in the land for the free. Many people were blacklisted and were prohibited from returning to Taiwan. He also published Boston Communiqué which acted as a KMT mouthpiece. His lack of respect for freedom, rule of law and basic human rights was evident then. During the presidential campaign, he said all the right things, but his deeds are in total contrast to his words. I sincerely hope that the fragile democracy in Taiwan can endure and survive his brutal assault.
So, is Ma sincere about reconciliation? You be the judge.


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