TAIWAN NEWS Editorial Ma lacks grasp of 'White terror'
Taiwan News Page 6 2008-07-16 01:09 AM
President Ma Ying-jeou of the right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) showed yesterday that he still does not appreciate the depth of feeling in Taiwan over the pervasive and systematic violation of human rights, including thousands of state murders of dissidents, during the nearly four decades of martial law rule imposed by the KMT regime on Taiwan from May 1949 to July 1987.
Ma had his first opportunity to explain how the new KMT administration will treat the legacy of its repressive history and safeguard human rights in a "memorial ceremony" for the thousands of victims of "improper sedition or communist spy cases" during the KMT "anti-communist" White Terror held on the 21st anniversary of the lifting of the 38-year-old martial law decree at Taipei's new Memorial to the Victims of the White Terror opposite the Office of the President.
On the positive side, Ma stated that he represented the Republic of China government to "express regret" to all the victims of the White Terror and their survivors," expressed the hope that such "improper cases" will never again happen in Taiwan and vowed that "human rights and the rule of law will be our own standard."
We agree with most of these sentiments, but also believe that a full apology and reparations from the KMT itself remains necessary.
However, Ma displayed his failure to grasp the essence of the continued anger of White Terror victims or surviving relatives, manifested in loud catcalls decrying the president by claiming that martial law in Taiwan and its restrictions on the human and civic rights of its people were required by the KMT-ruled R.O.C. government's "campaign to suppress the Chinese Communist rebellion."
Citing the English saying "all is fair in love and war," Ma stated that for the extraordinary needs of the war, human rights and the rule of law is often sacrificed.
Unfortunately, Ma has his political logic reversed.
First, Ma's justification of martial law "restrictions on human rights and the rule of law," which included the abrogation of the right of life by the KMT for several thousand Taiwan citizens, was inevitable in war was indeed ignorant and perverse.
On the contrary, the importance of rigorous protection of human rights during times of war, including civil war, is a major principle of international law.
For example, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 cover "civil war" and specifically require that all persons taking no active part in such hostilities be treated humanely.
The Geneva Conventions specifically prohibit "at any time and in any place whatsoever" actions such as "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" and "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."
All these actions and more were committed by the KMT during the 38 years of its martial law decree, which was probably imposed unconstitutionally.
Second, the KMT imposed martial law on Taiwan and launched the White Terror not for the purposes of prosecuting a civil war which had already been lost by mid-1949 but to ensure the complete freedom of KMT dictator Chiang Kai-shek to consolidate his hold on Taiwan as the "last refuge" of his regime.
Furthermore, there was no genuine threat to the survival of the KMT regime from the small Chinese Communist Party underground under the "Taiwan Provincial Work Committee" or other progressive forces as such forces had already been thoroughly suppressed during the island wide massacre in the wake of the February 28th Incident of 1947.
The executions of thousands of alleged "communist bandits" (far in excess of the actual size of the CCP underground) by the KMT party-state in the 1950s and 1960s, were simply either revenge killings in retaliation for the CCP's victory in the Chinese Civil War or conducted to intimidate the people of Taiwan from resisting the KMT's imposition of a new authoritarian colonial regime.
These brutal killings, including executions of teenagers, had no organic relationship with the Chinese Civil War and, along with the imprisonment of thousands more and the wrecking of the lives of thousands upon thousands and the stifling of human rights and freedom of thought throughout Taiwan, cannot be justified by "extraordinary circumstances" or ' excused on the basis of "all is fair in love and war."
Ma's declared intent to "prevent war" by suing for "peace" with the CCP-ruled People's Republic of China by "all means possible" is itself worrying since the KMT government's rush to embrace economic integration and subordination to the authoritarian PRC at the cost of our independence is unlikely to salutary for Taiwan's democracy or social equity or human rights.
Many Taiwan citizens have been are deeply concerned that the restoration of the KMT to power could resurrect anti-democratic trends.
Ma's answer to their question yesterday reflected only the continued arrogance of KMT power and did not convey a reassuring message for our future.