Sunday, December 2, 2007

228: Please, leave me alone!

- The so-called proponents of democracy on Taiwan are pushing for a law that would push the idea of "transitional justice" to an extreme.

The DPP in congress is proposing a law to liquidate the human rights infringements incurred under the KMT authoritarian rule. The law demands punishment to those who participated in the 228 incident, a massive political suppression under the KMT's reign, and compensation to the victims or their descendants. Even more frightening is the provision that stipulates an "inherited liability," i.e. if the person found liable of human rights infringement has deceased, his/her offspring and relatives can be pursued for compensation.

It would not be surprising if the radical populists would cheer it as a move toward justice. Yet how much good does a late justice do to a society, compared to the damage it causes by stirring up the bitter memory that is already fading from public life, not to mention that the reality of the 228 incident is far more complicated than the populists portray?

If the KMT were to continue defending its past authoritarian rule (like the right-wing politicians in Japan defend the country's invasion of China and Korea), the greens would be more than justified to demand a clear answer from the KMT. But that is not the case. Not only had the KMT opened up for freedom and democracy and admitted its own past wrongs, but it has also actively participated in the democratic process without the slightest intention to restore authoritarian rule through an electoral victory. The greens cannot find evidence to incriminate the present-day KMT of being anti-democratic, and the only thing they can do is to dig into the past.

The truth is, Taiwan does not need another bloody internal fight to move on, and it should choose forgiveness instead of vengeance as the way toward justice. "Transitional justice," an idea that camouflaged hatred and desire for revenge with a distorted version of the "rule of law," only makes sense when there is a pressing necessity to give the suppressors a lesson in order to prevent a revival of authoritarianism - which is clearly not the case of Taiwan. Thus, when Taiwan is struggling to depart from its authoritarian past, passing a retroactive law and extending its jurisdiction to people who are not even involved in the incident not only constitute a gross violation of the principle of the "rule of law," but also incur an act that further hinders progress toward a mature democracy.

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