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Human Rights, Development and Global Justice Series

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SW1.17

King's College London

Somerset House East Wing

London

WC2R 2LS

United Kingdom

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Transitional Justice Legislation in Taiwan: A Tale of Two Governments By Ernest Caldwell

Abstract: Taiwan successfully, and peacefully, transitioned from authoritarian one-party rule into a constitutional democracy in the early 1990s, yet due to the island’s complex international status and fraught relationship with China, as well as a rather conservative government approach to post-authoritarian discourse on past human rights violations, there has been relatively little scholarly interest in Anglophone academia on Taiwanese transitional justice issues. Despite the dearth of extant analysis, the study of Taiwan’s unique experience offers important insights into the impact of localized post-transition political dynamics on governmental responses to human rights abuses of the past. This talk examines the influence of such post-democratization local conditions on the scope and language of transitional justice legislation during two phases of Taiwan’s legislative history. The first period runs from the initial steps towards democratization in 1987 until 2016. During this era, the former authoritarian Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) managed to retain a majority voice in the elected legislature and dictate Taiwan’s pathway to transitional justice. The KMT was thus able to limit any legislation requiring accountability or the possibility of prosecution for past abuses perpetrated during the forty years in which the party held absolute power. The second period runs from January 2016 to the present, when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) succeeded in winning not only the presidency, but more importantly for the first time in Taiwan’s history it won an elected majority in the legislature. Victory in the legislature allows the current DPP government to actively pursue transitional justice legislation with minimal concern over interference from the KMT. Furthermore, the election leading up to 2016 reinvigorated transitional justice discourse in Taiwan and since the rise of the DPP, there have been numerous legislative bills related to transitional justice submitted by various groups, including the KMT. This talk will compare the language and scope of transitional justice legislation between these two legislative eras, as well as the impact of local political-social dynamics on their drafting and passage.

About the speaker: Dr Ernest Caldwell [BA, MA, LLM, PHD] is Lecturer in Laws of China and Taiwan in the School of Law at SOAS, University of London. He has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in sinology, legal history, and comparative law. Ernest is a legal historian with particular interests in the history of legal texts and legal writing and the history of constitutional law in China and Taiwan. He recently began a project on transitional justice in Taiwan. Ernest’s publications have appeared in several journals and edited volumes including, Law and History Review, Chicago-Kent Law Review, Early China, and University of Illinois Law Review. His first book, Writing Chinese Laws: The Forms and Functions of Statutes Found in the Qin Shuihudi Corpus will be published in 2018 as part of the Routledge Series in Asian Law.

Photo credit: Du Bin (杜斌)

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SW1.17

King's College London

Somerset House East Wing

London

WC2R 2LS

United Kingdom

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