by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: rheins/WikiCommons/CC
ON THE 75TH anniversary of the 228 Massacre, questions regarding transitional justice are still up in the air. However, one notes that pan-Blue apologism for the massacre and the White Terror that followed has become starker than ever.
It continues to be the case that the KMT largely downplays its past authoritarianism. This has become decidedly post-truth in past years, with the KMT alleging that the DPP is carrying out a “Green Terror” worse than the “White Terror” that it committed during the long years of Taiwan’s authoritarian period, during which Taiwan endured what was then the longest period of martial law in the world.
If so, one wonders where the bodies of the tens of thousands murdered under the Tsai administration are. But this is simply authoritarian nostalgia at work, inclusive of the denial that widespread killings of political dissidents, leftists, and intellectuals took place during the 228 Massacre and that repression continued for decades after. It is generally claimed that either the killings did not take place, have been exaggerated, or that the actual number of deaths were limited in scope, sometimes alongside the claim that those persecuted were CCP infiltrators.
Facebook post by the KMT on the 228 anniversary
In the past year, it has even become common for KMT politicians including current chair Eric Chu to accuse the DPP of being analogous to the Taliban, with the term “Daluban”–riffing off of “Taliban” in Mandarin, or “Daliban”–used to refer to the DPP. The term has even been used with regards to domestic abuse cases in which DPP politicians were abused by their partners, claiming that this is reflective of the deeply-rooted violence of the pan-Green camp.
Yet the KMT still refuses to confront its past crimes. And, to this extent, in the past year, the deep Blue wing of the camp is resurgent. This can be observed in the emergence of deep Blue firebrand Chang Ya-chung, who contested Chu in the KMT chair election that took place last year as well as the return to prominence of deep Blue media personality Jaw Shaw-kong. These are developments that follow from the 2020 presidential run of former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu, who leaned heavily into a deep Blue support base, leading to the rise of the “fighting Blue” faction of the KMT.
Recent events go to show that the KMT’s widespread corruption during the authoritarian period has not been addressed. A recent investigation found James Soong of the PFP, a longtime former KMT member and a former head of the Government Information Office, to possibly be linked to graft from a frigate deal in the 1990s. Soong has denied these charges and threatened to sue anyone who circulates such reports, but the KMT’s “black gold” corruption during the authoritarian period is well documented.
The KMT still continuously fields candidates with known histories of corruption, such as Yen Kuan-heng of the Yen family in Taichung–known for its links to organized crime–or Fu Kun-chi in Hualien. Despite that Fu is widely known as having been involved in multiple corruption cases and efforts to buy off the media, he and his wife Hsu Chen-wei finished fourth and first in KMT central committee elections recently. Corruption is no obstacle to holding high office in the KMT.
Consequently, the 75th anniversary of the 228 Massacre should raise questions about the future of efforts to pursue transitional justice in Taiwan. The KMT persists in alleging that efforts to declassify records from the authoritarian period or to investigate party assets retained by the KMT from property seizures during the authoritarian period are merely attempts at political persecution. Nevertheless, the current Transitional Justice Commission’s mandate is set to end in May and what happens next for attempts to address the past crimes of the authoritarian period is still unclear.
Facebook post by President Tsai Ing-wen on 228
President Tsai Ing-wen has herself been unusually conciliatory, as observed in a controversial speech that Tsai made at the opening of a cultural park and memorial library for former dictator Chiang Ching-kuo. One notes that for Tsai and the DPP, it is politically imperative to avoid the perception that actions aimed at pursuing transitional justice are simply intended to target the KMT or to overturn past notions of Taiwanese history. However, it is possible that going forward, the DPP will in fact be rather conciliatory regarding such issues.
Nevertheless, the result may simply be that some crimes from the authoritarian period simply go unanswered. There have already been decades in which this has been the case and it may simply be the case that it is too late to confront the long-buried past. Though disappointing, this would not be wholly surprising.