Commission vows to continue investigating activist’s death

A memorial square in National Taiwan University.(CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) promised Thursday to continue to investigate the death of democracy activist Chen Wen-chen (陳文成), whose case remains unsolved after 39 years.

Chen, who was an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, was found dead on the campus of National Taiwan University on July 3, 1981, during a vacation to Taiwan to visit his family.

He had been interrogated a day earlier by the Taiwan Garrison Command, a since-disbanded state security force known for suppressing democracy activists during Taiwan’s Martial Law era.

Although an initial police investigation concluded that Chen’s death was either a suicide or accidental, an investigative report released by the TJC in May this year said he was most likely murdered and that state security forces may have been involved.

Chen and his whole family had been under government surveillance, by means of wiretapping and with the help of informants, for an entire year before his death, even while in the U.S., the report said, citing government files.

They had come under government scrutiny because of Chen’s activism in democracy and human rights movements and the donations he made to pro-democracy Formosa Magazine, the report said.

Despite the TJC’s investigative efforts so far, they have not yet been able to determine how Chen died or who killed him, but will continue to work towards solving the case, the commission said on Facebook Thursday.

Their efforts will involve collecting and looking through records of the surveillance conducted by the then-Kuomintang government overseas, the TJC said.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her party, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), also posted on Facebook Thursday to commemorate Chen’s death.

Both said democratic and free Taiwan has learned from history and that the country will prevent tragedies like Chen’s from happening again.

“Hopefully, our government’s efforts towards transitional justice can be some small comfort to the families (of the victims), and encourage our friends in Hong Kong who await the light of freedom,” Tsai said.