A statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Yangminshan National Park, Taiwan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Yangminshan National Park, Taiwan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

More than 260,000 documents related to Chiang Kai-shek will be made available to the public online later this year, Wu Mi-cha, Curator of Taiwan’s Academia Historica, said on Tuesday afternoon.

Chiang is a Chinese political and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975.

Many see the move on the papers as a step forward towards transitional justice, a term used to describe judicial and non-judicial measures that a democratic country took to redress human rights abuses during the country’s authoritarian period.

“Opening access to political files is the first step to reaching transitional justice,” New Power Party legislator Hsu Yung-ming said on his Facebook page on Tuesday evening, adding that the documents might be important in providing objective historical evidence of Chiang to the public.

Photo and signature of Chiang Kai-shek in 1956. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

According to Academia Historica, the country’s largest national archive, contents of the documents include Chiang’s original manuscripts of commands, letters, cables and other related files from the Northern Expedition to the period of mobilization to suppress the Communist rebellion.

More than half of these documents were listed as classified, and need to go through a declassification process before they could be released and used. The last batch is expected to be declassified by the end of January this year.

According to Wu, 50,000 documents will be released first on January 5, together with the launch of Academic Historica’s new digital archives search system. Remaining documents will be digitalized and added into the system on a monthly basis. The goal is to release all documents by the end of April.

In the future, 95% of the Chiang Kai-shek documents will be accessible worldwide and free of charge online.

The rest are part of Chiang’s photos and letters, which involve personal data and might lead to copyright infringements if published online. These documents will be stored in paper form in the Academic Historica’s library, available to Taiwanese citizens upon request.

However, according to Taiwan’s information laws to date, people holding China, Hong Kong or Macau passports cannot file requests through regular channels. This system was largely criticized by academia for it harms academic freedom.

“We will try to put as many documents online as possible, so anyone can gain access,” Wu said.

In the meantime, a special channel for non-Taiwanese citizens will be opened, with requests reviewed case by case.