TAIPEI – A court in Taiwan ruled Wednesday in favor of a Japanese man seeking recognition that his father died in the so-called 228 Incident, a postwar period of brutal repression by Taiwanese authorities.
The man is seeking compensation for his father’s death.
The Taipei High Administrative Court ruled that the Memorial Foundation of 228 must compensate Keisho Aoyama, of Okinawa Prefecture, to the tune of 6 million Taiwanese dollars (¥20 million) for his father’s wrongful death.
The foundation can appeal the decision at the Supreme Administrative Court, but if Aoyama prevails he would be the first foreigner to receive compensation for the 228 Incident.
The name refers to the crushing of civilian resistance to Kuomintang rule in 1947. It comes from a reference to Feb. 28, the date the campaign began.
While many victims were killed or simply disappeared, it was taboo to talk about the incident for decades under the authoritarian rule of dictators Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo. Historians later referred to the period as the White Terror Era.
Aoyama said his family in Okinawa believes his father was killed by government troops at the age of 38. Because his body was never found, he was only listed as missing.
Aoyama’s campaign for redress has been long and painful. He first applied to the Memorial Foundation of 228 for reparations in August 2013, but the foundation turned down his request in December 2014 on the grounds that Japanese nationals are not eligible for national compensation.
The foundation also countered his request by saying compensation cases filed by Taiwanese soldiers recruited by the Japanese government during World War II and women procured for brothels for the Imperial Japanese military received nothing from the Japanese government.
Unhappy with the foundation’s decision, Aoyama filed a complaint with the Petition Commission of the Executive Yuan, or Cabinet, in January last year, but his request was again turned down in July. He then took the case to the Taipei High Administrative Court in September.
Chiu E-ling, secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, said the Memorial Foundation of 228 had originally agreed to compensate Aoyama but backtracked after the Ministry of the Interior stepped in.
She said the Taiwan government’s rejections of Aoyama’s request do not make sense because it should not use “diplomatic rhetoric” as a pretext to hide the crimes it committed in the past.
“If we want to talk about fairness, it is only fair to treat foreigners as equal to Taiwanese nationals from the viewpoint of human rights,” she said.
Aoyama, who was in Taiwan to hear the court ruling, said his campaign is not just for his family alone, but for others in a similar position, adding that there are three more families in Okinawa awaiting redress.
“I hope my case will set an example for others,” he said.
Aoyama, a board member of the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, said he hopes his case will also make the Taiwan government realize that it made a mistake in the past and that such mistakes must not be repeated.