Honesty can aid transitional justice
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2021.10.24
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) admitted he had been an informant for the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) authoritarian regime when he was a student and has announced that he is to resign from the DPP.
This decision should be affirmed, but hopefully he can also tell the whole truth to show his determination to distance himself from his past. He could use the opportunity to promote the implementation of transitional justice.
Taiwan’s democratization was a quiet revolution rather than a stormy event. This reduced the bloodshed, but it also slowed the process of transitional justice. The old state apparatus has not been shattered and the changing ideals have failed to have an impact on many people who lack understanding of transitional justice.
Huang should provide further explanation so a change in ideals is not a sudden event.
I have changed from being a supporter of a “greater China” ideal to supporting Taiwanese independence, but it took 20 years. My support went via the position that there are “two Chinas,” so there has been a constant back-and-forth of ideas.
For these reasons, I always wonder if Chinese who suddenly and fervently begin to support Taiwanese independence really do support it, or if they are simply opportunists trying to score political points.
Distancing oneself from an informant background might not be that complicated, but there is definitely a struggle. If Huang would speak out, perhaps he could teach us something.
An informant is not a spy, but a quasi-spy, as they only conduct surveillance and provide information, while a spy has other, destructive tasks, including inciting counterinsurgencies.
That there are victims, but no perpetrators, in Taiwan’s version of transitional justice has always been the crux of the problem, and it concerns the purpose of transitional justice.
Some people think that the purpose of transitional justice is unity, which could be affected by exposing the truth. Perhaps this is also why Huang might be holding back the whole truth.
However, without truth, Lee Chin-hsiang (利錦祥), the target of Huang’s activities, would wonder who was monitoring him and suspect everyone who had approached him during the Martial Law era. Huang, on the other hand, would feel awkward around Lee. What kind of unity is that?
Of course, telling the truth is not the same as being united. Those in power must first do a lot of work, not only from a macro perspective — to make the perpetrators understand that what they did is a stain on us all — but also to teach those who were targets to be broad-minded and look forward for the sake of national unity. The authorities must work carefully with perpetrators and targets.
The informant, Huang, is a perpetrator and a victim. If he tells the truth and promotes transitional justice, he is a victim. If he conceals the truth and resists the transformation, he is in the same position as his superiors and one of the perpetrators.
Everyone who did harm in the service of the authoritarian system, including informants, are both perpetrator and victim. The degree to which they are each is determined by their actions today.
Former DPP secretary-general Luo Wen-chia (羅文嘉) has said that some people refused to be informants. Such people are heroes, but they are a minority, so it is important to be tolerant of the majority and welcome them back into the fold.
However, whether those heroes who fought against the KMT can resist the temptation of money now is another question.
Huang can talk to his friends or authorities to discuss the most appropriate way to resolve the issue. He must also pay attention to his own safety.
There are many components to transitional justice, and this is just one of them. The vote in Taichung to recall Taiwan Statebuilding Party Legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟), which was held yesterday, also raised some strange issues, such as some wealthy people questioning his wealth and some local tycoons accusing him of being involved in gambling.
Meanwhile, the KMT — once Taiwan’s biggest party and now the largest opposition party — is colluding with the world’s largest communist party to bully the Taiwan Statebuilding Party. This is not only ridiculous, it is also an attack on transitional justice.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Perry Svensson