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A nation must think before it acts.
This article is an abbreviated version of a monograph published in 2019, titled “Transitional Justice in Taiwan: A Belated Reckoning with the White Terror.”
Abstract. From 1949 to the end of the Cold War, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) ruled the Republic of China (Taiwan) under martial law. The since-lifted 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 before Taiwan’s democratization in the 1990s. 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, 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.