Taiwan's legislature passes bill on declassifying political files

A bill aimed at declassifying and archiving political files kept by Taiwan's government agencies and political parties during its period of authoritarian rule, cleared the legislature on Thursday.

  411

TAIPEI (CNA) -- A bill aimed at declassifying and archiving political files kept by Taiwan's government agencies and political parties during its period of authoritarian rule, cleared the legislature on Thursday.

According to the bill, now an act, "political files" referred to documents related to the 228 Incident, the period of national mobilization for suppression of the communist rebellion and the period of martial law rule kept by government agencies, political parties and their attached agencies from Aug. 15, 1945 to Nov. 6, 1992, which is defined as the authoritarian period in Taiwan, based on the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice.

By unsealing historical records and revealing historical truths, the government hopes to advance social reconciliation, the Transitional Justice Commission said in a press statement Thursday.

Concerned government agencies should complete the inventory of political files within six months after its implementation begins, and turn the files into national archives, according to the Act.

The evaluation for declassifying confidential files should be done within six months thereafter, it said.

Political parties and their attached agencies which refuse to turn over their political files will be fined NT$1 million (US$31,900) to NT$5 million per offense, the Act stipulated, adding that any person who damaged political files the organization kept will face imprisonment of up to five years.

The Act is expected to shed light on the truth behind some politics-related incidents, among them the death of democracy advocate Chen Wen-chen (陳文成) in 1981 and the Lin family massacre in 1980.

Although the National Security Bureau holds files on these two high-profile cases, they were classified as "national secrets" and were not allowed to be declassified, according to the Transitional Justice Commission.

Chen was a professor who got his doctorate degree in the U.S. and funded the democracy movement in Taiwan during the martial law period. He was found dead on the campus of National Taiwan University on July 3, 1981 after being interrogated at the Taiwan Garrison Command a day before.

The Lin family massacre was a murder case in which the 60-year-old mother and 7-year-old twin daughters of activist Lin Yi-hsiung (林義雄) were stabbed to death, and his 9-year-old daughter was seriously hurt. No one has ever been charged or arrested for the murders.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party Kuomintang's (KMT) caucus slammed the Act as an attack aimed at the KMT. It questioned why the Act addresses files only for the period stated in the Act, which was the period of KMT rule after the party came to Taiwan from mainland China at the end of the Chinese civil war.

Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗), a whip of the KMT's legislative caucus, said the real motive behind the Act is to influence voters in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

He said most political files are currently under government custody, and the files can already be reviewed and processed in accordance with existing laws, questioning why a new law has to be created for that purpose.

Tseng further said the Act may violate the Constitution because some articles of the Act involves confiscation of political files from private entities.