Not surprisingly given Mr. Chen's pro-independence background, relations with China were tense during his presidency. However, U.S.-Taiwan relations, which many observers said had never been better at the start of the Bush administration, also deteriorated. After the 9/11 attacks, China joined the U.S. in the war on terrorism and U.S.-China relations improved. The Bush administration did not appreciate Mr. Chen provoking conflicts with China when the U.S. was preoccupied with the Middle East. Washington also abhorred Mr. Chen's ethnic politics, which weakened Taiwan's military and intelligence capabilities that the U.S. considered valuable. By the end of Mr. Chen's term, U.S. officials were publicly opposing his efforts to gain representation in the United Nations through referendums.
The crises in Taiwan's relations with both countries presented opportunities for Mr. Ma. Officials in Beijing were willing to deal with him. They were relieved that Mr. Chen was gone, though privately some "appreciated" him for wrecking Taiwan's economy, thus making the island more dependent on China, while creating chaos that sullied Taiwan's democratic model.
You can see that Copper simply regurgitates pro-KMT political claims, including the idea that Chen "provokes" China -- as we all know, China chooses to be provoked in order to influence the way foreigners look at Chen; the idea that Chen was the sole player of ethnic politics -- they are an invention of the KMT, and of course, the idea that Chen "wrecked" an economy that grew at 4.6%, 5.7%, and 6.0% for the last 30 months of his Administration is sheer nonsense. The lack of context is striking as well. This is beyond pathetic; this is a never-never land of KMT fairy tales. It's a shame that FEER choose to publish it. The stream of factual errors is mind-numbing:
All seemed to be going well until October when Chinese envoy Zhang Mingqing was accosted during a visit to Taiwan. A local opposition politician in south Taiwan, where civil behavior is less prevalent and Taiwan's independence feelings are stronger, pushed Mr. Zhang to the ground and jumped on his vehicle in front of television cameras.
It's arguable whether the local DPP politician pushed Zhang to the ground, but there is no question that he didn't jump on his car (that was someone else). Did you catch the quasiethnic slur? "...in south Taiwan, where civil behavior is less prevalent..." No mention -- it goes without saying -- that Zhang has threatened to murder Taiwanese who don't agree with his politics. But his behavior is "civil." UPDATE: And let's not forget, the riots in the north after the 2000 and 2004 elections, in which a prominent KMT legislator led an assault on a government building. That was an example of northern civility at its best...
One more paragraph ought to suffice:
Despite all this good news, a downturn in the global economy dashed hopes that the new administration could expeditiously set the economy back on a pattern of strong growth. In new democracies like Taiwan, the electorate typically quickly becomes disappointed with new leaders. Mr. Ma's popularity fell for both reasons, prompting the opposition to attack him on the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty.
Reality is the exact opposite: that the economy was doing reasonably well until the KMT took power, though the subsequent collapse of the stock market and other assorted problems were beyond their control. But the public is not unhappy because things are hard. Rather, the people have awarded Ma approval ratings lower than George Bush's because the Ma Administration has failed to show leadership on the urgent issues of the day, instead focusing on China policy to the exclusion of all else. And let's not forget that title: Ma leads Taiwan Comeback -- but as anyone who has read the more informed and balanced discussions of our local politics knows, Ma is not exactly running things. That's the Old Guard of the KMT...
It's one thing when sheer unmitigated you-have-to-read-it-to-believe-it-crap like this appears in the United Daily News; but quite another when it appears in FEER. What on earth were they thinking?
It is interesting to contrast, in both depth of knowledge, attitude, tone, and journalistic stance, the piece that appeared in the same issue of FEER by Julian Baum, reporting on the recent spate of detentions. Baum's article is much too long to discuss here as it deserves, but some highlights:
On the case of Dr. Hsieh and the Tainan Science Park vibration dampening project:
During his detention, meetings with his lawyer were observed by prison guards who took notes, and recorded and videotaped their discussions. If not for some crucial documents that the prosecutors overlooked, Mr. Shieh says he could not have mounted a credible defense, since he had no access to the confiscated materials. Two years later on July 30, 2008, all the defendants were acquitted. In a 148-page verdict, the judge ruled that there was no basis for the charges and Mr. Shieh and the others were completely exonerated.
Well, one piece a one-sided, completely propagandistic view of things; the other a nuanced and informed discussion of recent unhealthy trends on the island. Which one is the real Taiwan?
While not arguing for Mr. Chen's guilt or innocence, many observers have questioned the necessity of his handcuffing and detention, which publicly signified guilt and humiliation and produced the dramatic images of a fallen leader for the national press. "There clearly exists a contradiction between the presumption of innocence on the one hand and the system of pretrial detention on the other," wrote lawyer Lin Feng-cheng of the Judicial Reform Foundation. Following Mr. Chen's detention, the foundation issued a statement recommending that the pretrial detention practice be curtailed. "This is an issue that can no longer be evaded," the statement said.
The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, an influential voice on matters of human rights, has also protested the detention law, calling it a basic violation of due process and the rule of law. And the church called attention to the problem of pretrial publicity and "trial by press" which weakens defendants and violates the rule of presumption of innocence.
Some observers say that this may be the most serious shortcoming of Taiwan's criminal-justice process, since the selective public revelation of information in defendants' case files brings pressure on prosecutors and defames the defendant in ways that acquittal cannot reverse. The rule on public disclosure authorizes limited access during the investigation phase of a case. But a defense attorney in an ongoing investigation said the prosecutor in his case often briefed the press, while he himself was he warned not to disclose information.
Prompt justice may be another casualty in the recent anticorruption campaign. The U.S. State Department's 2007 human rights report on Taiwan noted that the typical delay between indictment and trial is only three months. But former first lady, Ms. Wu, was indicted in November 2006 on charges of document fraud and embezzlement involving the "state affairs fund," a loosely regulated presidential office slush fund. Two years later, her trial had not had yet begun, amid speculation that the prosecutor's case is weak and that other investigations are likely to lead to more serious charges. Her husband's indictment as a co-defendant in the case is expected by the end of 2008. Meanwhile, a number of cases involving senior KMT officials are on hold, some delayed for years.
Also in the news, finally, are the Wild Strawberries. The Wild Strawberries protest against the Assembly and Parade Law and other issues made the international news media with a report from the International Herald Tribune.
About 3,000 Taiwanese college students marched in the capital Sunday to protest a law that they say limits people's constitutional right to demonstrate freely.
The students, many in black shirts symbolizing impaired human rights, shouted slogans as they paraded in a downtown district with police and government buildings.
They protested a law that requires police approval of public gatherings and demanded that demonstrators be allowed to stage protests as they wish. They said the current law gives police too much power to bar protests.
The group ignored police officers who held up signs ordering them to disperse for failing to obtain approval.
I heard from reliable witnesses that about 7-8000 students were there (I was not so don't know), and they had a coffin draped with the ROC flag. Tomorrow, December 9, from 7 to 10:45 there is a Human Rights Day Concert in Taipei at Nameinflux Hall AKA Liberty Square AKA CKS Memorial.