Transitional Justice and Prospect of Democratic Consolidation in Taiwan: Democracy and Justice in Newly Democratized Countries

Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, University of Richmond
Samuel Chang-yung Ku


The issue of justice figures prominently m various stages of democratization yet the topic is still understudied in the broad literature of democratization. The handling of transitional justice is crucial to the successful transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. However, the type of transition (e.g., transformation vs. replacement) also significantly shapes the approach toward transitional justice: forgive and forget vs. prosecute and punish. More importantly, enhancing social justice is essential to the prospect of the upgrading from electoral democracy to liberal democracy. As discussions on Third World democratization move from quantity (democratic enlargement) to quality (democratic consolidation), an examination of the role played by justice is crucial. This article studies an index case of newly democratized country Taiwan. It first examines Taiwan's unique approach toward transitional justice, by focusing on the February 28 Incident, and discusses some of the rationales for the political calculus for this approach, including considerations for ethnic relations. It then provides a preliminary empirical exploration into the role justice plays in Taiwan's democratization by analyzing the data from "proxy'' questions for justice in TEDS - Taiwan's premier survey research consortium. Survey results show that Taiwanese electorate display high degree of commitment toward democracy, despite some ambivalence and they attach great importance to justice in the country's evolution into a liberal democracy.