TJC unveils online database of persecutions in martial law period

02/26/2020 11:38 PM
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Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) Taiwan's Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) on Wednesday launched a searchable online database of curated court files of nearly 10,000 victims of political persecution during the country's martial law period.

The database also contains the names of the military officers involved in the court trials of the victims.

At a ceremony to launch the Taiwan Transitional Justice Database, TJC spokesperson Yeh Hung-ling (葉虹靈) said it provided answers to the basic questions of who were the victims and the perpetrators, who were responsible for the atrocities, and why.

In practical terms, Yeh said, the data will give the public easier access to the court files, which previously could only be obtained by filing an application with the National Archives Administration (NAA).

The TJC carried out the important work of curating a large volume of thick court files and presenting the key facts of each case and the names of the persons involved, in a bid to clarify the historical record, she said.

According to the TJC, the database contains more than 1,000 photographs and the court records of roughly 9,800 people convicted on political charges during Taiwan's period of martial law (1949-1987), also known as the White Terror era.

The victims were not only Taiwanese, but also a significant number of immigrants from mainland China who were persecuted under the government's military justice system. In total, there were 5,500 cases involving Taiwanese defendants and 4,300 against immigrants from China, the commission said.

As for the officials, the database shows that former President Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) participated in the the prosecution of 3,195 cases, General Chou Chih-jou (周至柔) 2,506 cases, and General Kuei Yung-ching (桂永清) 1,241, according to the TJC.

Former President Chiang Kai-shek participated in the the prosecution of 3,195 cases, according to the TJC database. (CNA file photo)
Former President Chiang Kai-shek participated in the the prosecution of 3,195 cases, according to the TJC database. (CNA file photo)
The database shows that former General Chou Chih-jou (left) participated in the the prosecution of 2,506 cases, and General Kuei Yung-ching (right) 1,241, according to the TJC. (CNA file photo)
The database shows that former General Chou Chih-jou (left) participated in the the prosecution of 2,506 cases, and General Kuei Yung-ching (right) 1,241, according to the TJC. (CNA file photo)

Acting TJC head Yang Tsui (楊翠) said that due to time and budget constraints, documents such as arrest and interrogation records, and prison times served by each individual were not included in the database.

It also does not contain any information about people who were executed without a court trial, including many cases related to the government crackdown on a civil uprising in 1947, known as the Feb. 28 Incident, the commission said.

That means the extra-judicial killings of some well-known victims such as artist Chen Cheng-po (陳澄波) and lawyer Tang Te-chang (湯德章) are not documented in the database, the commission said.

Despite those limitations, the database is an important refutation of the notion that Taiwan's martial law period was an era of "10,000 victims but no perpetrators," according to Chen Chun-hung (陳俊宏), director of Taiwan's National Human Rights Museum.

"Setting up the database is just a starting point," he said. "I hope that in the future, information on the secret police and the social surveillance system will be added, which will allow researchers to approach the truth of that historical period."

(By Matt Yu and Matthew Mazzetta)

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