The Transitional Justice Commission on Wednesday last week announced that it has managed to have files on the July 2, 1981, death of Carnegie Mellon University assistant professor of statistics Chen Wen-chen (陳文成) declassified, although the documents had been assigned to permanent secrecy by the National Security Bureau (NSB).
However, the bureau has retreated behind regulations and its status as the competent authority in its insistence that the commission and Taiwanese must wait another 50 years before the files are made public, as “there is a risk that the files will have a strong negative impact on national security or foreign relations.”
The commission also said that it cannot locate the recordings of the Taiwan Garrison Command’s interrogation of Chen.
A few days before the commission’s announcement, Academia Historica president Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深) in a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan revealed that the academy would soon publish documents related to the case.
Although some recordings are missing, Chen Yi-shen said he believes that Chen Wen-chen was murdered, adding that other recordings show that the professor was clearly worried at the time.
This contradicts past intelligence agency statements, which said that everything went calmly and peacefully.
At a different legislative question-and-answer session, NSB Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) said that he saw the files and that not making them public would raise questions, although his statement had ominous overtones when he said that if the files are made public, consideration should be given to “those who are still working.”
As Chiu said, some officials involved might still be politically active. In other words, after a decades-long transformation from an authoritarian society to one that is democratic and free — the true meaning of which is that the people are the masters of the nation — the bureau is using its authority to decide that another 50 years must go by before all of the documents are made public. By that time, people from that era who want to know the truth would be dead and gone — how is that any different from protecting the guilty?
Taiwanese interested in the handover of Taiwan from Japan to the Republic of China (ROC) government know Taiwanese author Wu Cho-liu’s (吳濁流) book Taiwanese Forsythia (台灣連翹). When Wu wrote the book, he said that it could only be published a decade or two after his passing. After its publication, the public learned of the ugly viciousness of the era’s politicians and business leaders.
In the same way, before becoming president, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) swore that he would thoroughly investigate the scandal surrounding the Lafayette frigate deal with France, even if it shook the nation to its foundation, but following several government transitions, the public is none the wiser as to who was behind it all.
The bureau is using national security and foreign relations to warn the public to back off, saying that the revelation could destroy Taiwan, bringing national misfortune and disaster. The bureau must still be living under the illusion that it can hide the facts and let them fade with time, thus protecting politicians who reacted against the rise of democracy with cold-blooded murder in a bid to keep a grip on power.
If all of this has any bearing on national security, that only means that the tumor that existed in 1981 has yet to be completely cut out.
When the bureau’s director-general says that the facts of this case cannot be made public for another 50 years, he is saying that Taiwan will have to elect another dozen presidents before Taiwanese can know what happened — and that crucial recordings will mysteriously disappear somewhere inside the agencies studying the case.