Washington International Law Journal


Taiwan’s experience with transitional justice over the past three decades suggests that dealing with historical injustice is a dynamic and fluid process that is fundamentally shaped and constrained by the balance of power and socio-political reality in a particular transitional society. This Article provides a contextualized legal-political analysis of the evolution of Taiwan’s transitional justice regime, with special attention to its limits and challenges. Since Taiwan’s democratization began, the transitional justice project developed by the former authoritarian Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) has been rather disproportionately focused on restorative over retributive mechanisms, with the main emphasis placed on reparations and apology and little consideration of truth recovery and individual accountability. But since the Democratic Progressive Party began to control the government and legislature in 2016, its new transitional justice initiatives have introduced significant changes, including, among others, investigating the KMT’s “illicit party assets” and removing authoritarian symbols such as Chiang Kai-shek’s statues, eliciting various contentions and contestations along the way. In our view, Taiwan is now confronted with profound challenges in developing a holistic, thoughtful transitional justice regime: fierce partisan politics that could interrupt progress at any time, conflation of transitional justice and identity politics, pending legal complications and a general distrust of the judiciary, and limited public engagement in transitional justice issues. Whether Taiwan can continue to thrive depends on how it grapples with these challenges in pursuit of justice and reconciliation that will strengthen and sustain tomorrow’s democratic Taiwan.

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