Transitional Justice Commission members confirmed in party-line vote

Yang Tsui/ CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Legislative Yuan voted along party lines Tuesday to approve the nomination of eight commissioners to the Transitional Justice Commission (TJC), an “independent government agency” charged with investigating Taiwan’s authoritarian past.

The TJC was formed on May 31, 2018 and given two years to draft a report on steps to promote transitional justice in Taiwan before being disbanded.

The government announced in April that it would grant the commission an additional year to complete its work, but was legally required to re-nominate the commission’s leadership.

In a series of 72-0 votes Tuesday, lawmakers approved the nominations of three sitting and five new TJC commissioners, appointing acting chair Yang Tsui (楊翠) to lead the body on a permanent basis.

In response, Yang told CNA the commission would use the coming year to pursue financial reparations for the victims of state violence and to expand knowledge of transitional justice within Taiwanese society.

The one-sided votes came after the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ordered its members to arrive at the chamber at 6:30 a.m., well ahead of the 9:00 a.m. session, to guarantee it had the votes to confirm the nominees, while 41 lawmakers aligned with the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) boycotted proceedings.

At a press conference, KMT lawmaker Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said the party boycotted the votes on the grounds that the nominees did not possess the non-partisan, impartial backgrounds necessary to lead an independent commission.

The party particularly opposed the appointment of Yang as chairperson, given that her grandfather, the novelist Yang Kuei (楊逵), was a victim of political oppression and jailed several times during the White Terror period, Lin said.

Despite his respect for both Yang Tsui and her grandfather, Lin said the former’s family history made it impossible for her to objectively carry out her duties.

In contrast, Lin noted that KMT lawmaker Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) — the great-grandson of former authoritarian leader Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) — had not attended the press conference in the belief that his family history constituted a conflict of interest on the issue.

Meanwhile, the DPP’s legislative caucus said in a statement that it looks forward to the commission continuing its work to declassify government files, remove authoritarian symbols, redress judicial wrongs and return ill-gotten party assets.

In separate remarks, DPP lawmaker Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) raised the possibility that the commission would be made permanent, saying his party would “respect the Executive Yuan’s opinion” on the matter.

The eight commissioners approved Tuesday include Yang Tsui (楊翠), an associate professor of Sinophone literature at National Dong Hwa University; Yeh Hung-lin (葉虹靈), a former chief executive of the Taiwan Association for Truth and Reconciliation; Chen Yu-fan (陳雨凡), a former chair of the Judicial Reform Foundation; and Frank Wang (王增勇), a professor in National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of Social Work.

Others are Lin Chia-fan (林佳範), an associate professor in National Taiwan Normal University’s Department of Civic Education and Leadership; Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群), an associate law professor at Chung Yuan Christian University; Awi Mona (蔡志偉), an associate professor of law at National Dong Hwa University; and Peng Jen-yu (彭仁郁), an ethnologist at Academia Sinica and current TJC commissioner.