voice for democracy

EDITORIAL: Wisdom key in transitional justice – 台北時報

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) must be careful that its drive to implement transitional justice is not used as a political weapon in power struggles, otherwise history might repeat itself.
With DPP Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) on Sunday saying that he had been an informant for intelligence agencies during the Martial Law era, discussion has shifted away from holding the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime accountable to what can be described as a “cleansing” movement within the DPP.
An exclusive report by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) on Saturday last week said that Huang a few months earlier had been expelled by the New Tide faction of the DPP after his activities as a student were discovered.
DPP members immediately pointed to the then-KMT government’s actions during the White Terror era, saying that many people were coerced or enticed by the regime to spy on dissidents.
However, speculation arose that the disclosure of Huang’s snitching might have been a plot among fellow DPP members who did not want him to contest next year’s Taichung mayoral election.
Questions remain over the timing of the revelations about Huang. The Transitional Justice Commission has said that the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau in the 1980s had a network of more than 30,000 informants. “There must be more” might be the phrase that best describes the mood in the DPP.
Over the past week, party members have started to look at one another with suspicion.
Former DPP chairman Shih Ming-te (施明德) has jumped into the debate, saying that Chiang Peng-chien (江鵬堅), the party’s first chairman, who passed away in 2000, and lawyers who helped defendants after the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident were also informants.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) were among the lawyers, although they were not directly accused.
The furor over Huang’s past has evolved into a tempest in a teapot for the DPP. Questions have even been raised over whether the commission should continue to exist.
Since its establishment in May 2018, the commission has made some laudable achievements, including its inventory of sites where injustices were committed, yet its credibility has also been undercut by controversies.
A recording leaked to the media in September 2018 showed that then-commission deputy chairman Chang Tien-chin (張天欽) planned to manipulate public opinion regarding Hou You-yi (侯友宜) — who was campaigning ahead of his ultimate success in the New Taipei City mayoral election that year — by drawing attention to Hou’s service as a police officer in the 1980s.
The leaked audio sparked criticism of Chang — who resigned shortly afterward and was impeached, with the Control Yuan saying that he contravened administrative neutrality and disseminated misinformation, “dealing a serious blow to the commission’s reputation and credibility.”
Still a young democracy, Taiwan needs to learn how to address its authoritarian past, but also prevent political persecution and surveillance from recurring.
It needs a system that prevents the political manipulations of bad actors, while promoting dialogue and reconciliation once the truth has been established.
That will require more wisdom from those in charge.
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