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.