From 1949 to the end of the Cold War era, the Kuomintang (KMT)—under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo—ruled the Republic of China (Taiwan) under martial law. The martial law decree gave the government immense power to quash any perceived forms of dissent in society. As a result, the KMT imprisoned, tortured, and executed thousands of people over the course of several decades. Now, President Tsai Ing-wen and the Democratic Progressive Party are investigating the atrocities committed during this era. With the establishment of the Ill-Gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee and the Transitional Justice Commission, the Tsai government hopes to bring historical truth and justice to Taiwan’s society and hold the KMT accountable for its actions during the authoritarian period. Despite good intentions, the progress has been slow due to legal delays, a controversy regarding malintent, and the population’s ambivalence. Nevertheless, Taiwan must deal with its history in order to move forward as a democracy.
The Tsai government and DPP majority in the Legislative Yuan should pass a lustration law preventing perpetrators from serving in government (elected or civil service).
The Tsai government should declassify the archives related to the Lin Family Massacre, the murder of Chen Wen-chen, and the Formosa Incident. Tsai’s failure to remove Chen Shui-bian’s classification restriction prevents a full accounting of these incidents.
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall should be made into a Presidential Memorial Hall, where all democratically elected presidents of Taiwan will be honored after they either leave office or die.
The Kuomintang should issue an apology to Taiwan’s indigenous people. While the Tsai government issued an apology on behalf of the government, the KMT committed the atrocities against these people and should piggyback on Tsai’s actions.
The Kuomintang should accept full responsibility for the actions committed during the White Terror. Some members of the KMT have expressed regret for what occurred, but a formal statement from the party acknowledging what happened, accepting responsibility for it, and apologizing must be issued. Without doing so, the KMT will remain stuck in the past, be open to continued criticism, and will have a difficult time bringing in younger generations who do identify with their Taiwanese identity.