Transitional Justice, Eradicating the KMT Assets

Taiwan’s new legislature should live up to its promise of “transitional justice” and take the German experience as reference when dealing with the party assets to let the public feel their historic, cultural and economic impact. When disposing of the KMT party assets the principle of restitution to the original owners should apply to KMT-occupied state land or private land that the KMT obtained through forced sales. On top of that, recovered KMT assets should be utilized where the people can see them. This will remind society that Taiwan once suffered under an authoritarian regime and give citizens the feeling that they gain some economic benefit from the restitution.

By Huang Di-yin, Attorney,  published with permission from Taiwan Brain Trust
In  2016  the  majority  party  in  Taiwan’s legislature changed for the first time in history. There  is  a  strong  consensus  in  society  that  this  new  legislature  should  promote  transitional  justice.  People  do  not  only  think  that  the  new  legislature  should  keep  its  political  pledges  and  quickly  pass  legislation  to  strip  the  Kuomintang  (KMT)  of  its  assets  such  as  the  Political  Party  Act  and  a  bill  on  the  disposition  of  improperly  obtained  party  assets.  They  also  think  that  the  KMT  ought  to  return  its  assets  to  the  people,  eradicating unfair, ill-gotten party assets to ensure a level playing field for all political parties and a normal development of Taiwanese democracy.
When disposing of the KMT party assets the principle  of  restitution  to  the  original  owners  should apply to KMT-occupied state land or private  land  that  the  KMT  obtained  through  forced  sales.  On  top  of  that,  recovered  KMT  assets should be utilized where the people can see them.  This  will  remind  society  that  Taiwan  once  suffered  under  an  authoritarian  regime  and  give citizens the feeling that they gain some economic benefit from the restitution.
The German experience [following the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990] could serve as reference. In the 1990s the German  parliament  adopted  legislation  for  the  establishment  of  a  special  commission  tasked  with the retrieval of the ill-gotten assets of East Germany’s  former  ruling  Communist  party.  Aside from returning these assets to their rightful owners, the German government used these party assets in places where they had a tangible effect. The  German  government  paid  for  instance  for  an exhibition showing historic photographs of the  important  moment  when  the  people  toppled  the Berlin Wall. In the east German state of Brandenburg  the  government  allocated  2  million  Euros  from  the  retrieved  party  assets  to  support  music  education  for  underprivileged  children,  financing  the  purchase  of  musical  instruments  for  public  music  schools.  These  were  ways  of  disposing of party assets whose impact the people felt.
Taiwan’s  new  legislature  should  live  up  to  its  promise  of  “transitional  justice”  and  take  the  German experience as reference when dealing with  the  party  assets  to  let  the  public  feel  their  historic, cultural and economic impact.
Aside  from  that,  we  should  pay  particular  attention  to  the  fact  that  while  the  KMT  apparently does not dare to counter the democratic trend  toward  “transitional  justice”  its  version  of  the party assets bill – submitted to the legislature by  KMT  lawmakers  under  the  name  “draft  act  governing  the  monitoring  of  political  party  asset  management” – stipulates that the Control Yuan investigate  and  dispose  of  controversial  party  assets. This approach completely runs counter to the German experience in legislating “transitional justice”  and  betrays  universal  democratic  values.  The  KMT’s  statement  it  wants  to  dispose  of  its  party assets is nothing more than playing games.
Article 12 of the KMT-version of the party assets  bill  stipulates  that  investigation  and  disposal  of  controversial  party  assets  shall  be  transferred to the Control Yuan. The incumbent members of the Control Yuan were all nominated by outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou and approved by the previous KMT-controlled legislature. Therefore, the Control Yuan stood by  former  Keelung  Mayor  and  KMT  member  Chang Tung-rung, who had been convicted and sentenced  for  interfering  with  police  matters  in  a  drunk  driving  case,  all  along  determining  that  Chang  had  not  committed  any  misconduct    and  would not be impeached. The Control Yuan equally covered up for former Prosecutor General Huang Shih-ming, who was stripped of his job by the Prosecutors Personnel Review Committee and  sentenced  by  a  court  for  leaking  secrets  to  President Ma, determining that he was not guilty of any misconduct and would not be impeached.
We can infer that once the investigation of the  KMT’s  controversial  party  assets  has  been  transferred to the Control Yuan in accordance with the KMT-version of the party assets bill, the Control Yuan will determine these assets to be legal  and  legitimate  in  keeping  with  its  “lofty”  principle of protecting the bigwigs of the [former KMT] party-state!
In the 1990s Germany adopted special legislation that awarded the Independent Commission for the Inspection of the Properties of  the  Political  Parties  and  Mass  Organizations  of the former GDR (UKPV) [East Germany] prosecutorial  powers  to  seize  and  dispose  of  assets in order to recover the illegal assets of the East  German  communist  party.  The  legislative  principle  of  “transitional  justice”  in  Germany  is  consistent  with  European  efforts  at  the  time  to  implement democratic ideals.
In the last century Germany granted the independent  commission  special  legal  status  and  powers  for  disposing  of  party  assets.  This  commission  starkly  differs  from  the  Control  Yuan, this “superfluous” body in our Constitution, and  is  above  all  irreplaceable.  However,  despite  the  advent  of  the  21stcentury,  the  KMT  still  has  illusions that the Control Yuan can substitute an “independent  commission”  for  the  investigation  of party assets. To sum things up, with the KMT-version of the  part  assets  bill  it  will  not  only  be  impossible  to return the party assets to the entire people, the people  will  also  not  feel  any  economic  impact  [from their restitution]. The KMT-version of the party  assets  bill  is  putting  up  a  smokescreen  and  cheating  the  Taiwanese  people  because  it  makes  it  impossible  to  once  and  for  all  solve  the  party  asset problem that created an unfair advantage for the KMT on the political playing field [in the first place]. Taiwanese society should be clearly aware of this.