Taiwan’s Transitional Justice Commission

“Taiwan during the White Terror was a lot like East Germany under the Communists: The networks of spying and lying and informing were so vast that probably one or two out of every four Taiwanese were informers in some way.”

So says the commissioner of Taiwan’s Transitional Justice Commission, which was created in May 2018 to uncover atrocities committed during Taiwan’s “White Terror,” a period of martial law lasting 38 years, from 1949 to 1987.

But what exactly is “transitional justice,” and why are its key tenets, in Taiwan, “heal,” “resolve,” and “strengthen”?

Stephen J. Hartnett, a professor at the University of Colorado, Denver, explains in a piece for SupChina. As he notes: “Building a new democracy while uncovering repressed pasts is no easy task — the process is fraught with confusion, contradiction, and conflict.”

—Anthony Tao