TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Incumbent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) openly criticized ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) removal of former President Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) legacy from Taiwan culture and history during a speech in Malaysia on Tuesday.
The mayor was responding to accusations from the DPP and New Power Party (時代力量) politicians that Ko did not understand transitional justice, and was making the remarks for campaign purposes.
"Not everything has to follow the DPP’s policies, if that was the case I might as well join the party," said Ko.
Ko’s grandfather was a victim of the White Terror incident, known as 228, in 1947, and noted purging the controversial president from Taiwan history and culture was impeding the nation from achieving social harmony.
The controversial president ordered the public execution of political dissidents on Feb. 28, 1947, imprisoned and tortured dissidents without fair trial in the following years, and in 1949 began a 42-year-long martial law reign.
Despite Ko’s family’s tragedy, he proposed the nation give Chiang a fair and accurate historical evaluation, and allow the public to decide for themselves if the nation was to become united and harmonious.
People should not be predisposed to denouncing Chiang’s legacy or follow political labels, without discussing their differences and arriving at a common ground. Every person should be allowed to express their opinions, said Ko.
The nation’s history is split into different historical eras from the ancient Ming and Qing dynasties, colonial rule under the Spanish, Dutch and Japanese to the arrival of Kuomintang (KMT) rule, noted Ko.
Each is an independent historical segment, and that “focusing on a particular era is only deepening fissures in the nation’s society,” he said.
"We may all have different pasts, but we should strive towards the same future," he added.
Ko noted he and his father used to be victims of history, but “history is not only about the victims, but also the perpetrators.”
"Sometimes forgiving your enemies is a sign of strength," said Ko.
Transitional justice is important, but it should not just be the victor’s justice, said Ko. Taiwan’s society needs to march forward.
"We should address historical issues calmly and pragmatically, and need to face the future positively," said Ko.
Asked if this anti-Chiang purge would affect future partnerships with the DPP, Ko responded that the party has to evaluate many things and the overview of things. The DPP will not be basing its decisions on a single incident, he added.