Sunday, January 04, 2009

AP Throws a Strike

AP's Peter Enav did us proud with an excellent piece that hit not only the removal of Judge Chou in the Chen Shui-bian graft case, but also described the way the KMT party appears to have reached ascendancy over the state here in Taiwan. To wit:

But two incidents during his first seven months in office are prompting unflattering comparisons with his Nationalist Party's dictatorial past and raising questions about Ma's ability to protect Taiwan's fragile democracy.

His apparent willingness to countenance his party's actions against opposition politicians is provoking stinging criticism of his administration, both at home and abroad.

It is "reminiscent of Richard Nixon's behavior, as in ordering IRS investigations of groups he didn't like," said June Teufel Dreyer, a China-Taiwan expert at the University of Miami, in an e-mail response to questions. The IRS is the American tax agency.

No one suggests Ma wants to turn the clock back on free elections and other democratic reforms that swept the island starting in the mid-1980s.

What worries some is the efforts by Nationalist lawmakers to pressure the Ministry of Justice into prosecuting former officials of the rival Democratic Progressive Party, including former President Chen Shui-bian.

Note that Enav alludes to the troubling prosecutions that seemingly concentrated on DPP officials. In the Chen case, not only did the KMT have the judge changed when they got a ruling they didn't like, but after flying in Jeff Koo from Japan to testify that he bribed Chen, they let him go without prosecuting him for bribery. Move along folks, there's no deal to see here!

In addition to the ominous developments out of the judiciary and prosecutors, Enav also describes the power of the KMT over the government, and the trial by media the DPP accused are undergoing:

Political scientist Wang Yeh-lih of Taipei's National Taiwan University said the most disturbing aspect of the Chen affair has been the readiness of Nationalist lawmakers to leak information from the investigation to allies in the media.

He also blamed prosecutors, saying they "consistently violated the principle of guarding the details of investigations during Chen's case."

Wang said Ma's apparent inability to stand up to lawmakers in his own party was also evident in his reluctance to prevent senior Nationalist officials from holding talks in Shanghai last month with China's Communist Party.

The negotiations, on two-way investment and cooperation in financial and service industries, circumvented the Straits Exchange Foundation, the Taiwanese body established to conduct talks with the mainland.

The leaders of the Nationalist delegation included honorary party chairman Lien Chan, whom critics chide as a supporter of reunification with the mainland, something most Taiwanese oppose. Ma has pledged not to discuss the issue while in office.

Wang said the meeting signaled the government's willingness to abdicate its authority to the ruling political party, much as the Nationalist Party dictated policy during martial law from 1947 to 1987.


It is a long article, and spends some time going over the details of the removal of the judge who released Chen from detention without bail. Good stuff, especially given the constraints on length the media operates under, and hope to see this topic expanded on and developed more.

It's important that AP is finally reporting on this. Though other media outlets have already been there before AP, AP is the single most important provider of international content for many newspapers in the US. Now that these issues have the imprimatur of such a large media organ, I hope that this will be followed by criticism from the international community of Taiwan watchers in both North America and Europe, as well as additional media reports.

Meanwhile the AP report highlights another function of the Chen case, in addition to the never-ending distraction it represents: Chen is tailor-made for the apparent rollback of rule of law, since anyone who objects can be discredited as a mere Chen supporter -- and the appearance of supporting Chen makes many who might speak out reluctant to do so.

UPDATE: Several us have been discussing how this statement....
No one suggests Ma wants to turn the clock back on free elections and other democratic reforms that swept the island starting in the mid-1980s.
....which is totally untrue -- many public figures have suggested that -- is subtly but strongly contradicted by the rest of the article, which does in fact suggest that we are moving backwards into the past here.

UPDATE II: The pro-Blue, sex-n-scandal sheet ESWN, who thorough detests both Taiwan and its democracy, records the Presidential office's response. He titled it "AP hit piece on Ma." ROFL.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The crazy thing isn't legislators leaking information--it's the prosecutor's office. And the head of the Ministry of Justice doesn't seem to give a flying F that info is being leaked all over to the legislators and media. It's highly illegal, and for good reason--besides the political unfair play, judges then have an additional burden of public opinion to take into consideration, and whether they may or may not stand up to it or not is besides the point--in a free democracy with rule of law, they shouldn't have to.

Anonymous said...


No one suggests Ma wants to turn the clock back on free elections and other democratic reforms that swept the island starting in the mid-1980s.


What a load of bollocks! That is precisely what many are suggesting, like Tsai Ing-wen, for example!

Anonymous said...

"No one suggests Ma wants to turn the clock back on free elections and other democratic reforms that swept the island starting in the mid-1980s."

I am going to suggest it.

Not in the martial law sense.. but in a more subversive mode.

It will look like democracy on the outside, but the forces which mobilize votes will be firmly in the hands of the KMT as they use prosecution, back room deals, party to party agreements, media controls and a carrot and stick approach to the media to best circumvent the remaining structures of representative democracy and maintain their monopoly on power which keeps them in their luxury abodes and their children in America.

Tim Maddog said...

Peter Enav wrote:
- - -
No one suggests Ma wants to turn the clock back on free elections and other democratic reforms that swept the island starting in the mid-1980s.
- - -

Uh, yes they do. There are lots of people who are worried about losing free elections in Taiwan because of Ma. In fact, the "Open letter on erosion of justice in Taiwan" that was written about this says:
- - -
It would be sad for Taiwan and detrimental to its international image if the progress which was made during the past 20 years would be erased. Taiwan needs to move forward, not backwards to the unfair and unjust procedures as practiced during the dark days of Martial Law (1947-1987).
- - -

Enav needs to get his head out from whatever rock it's under.

It'll take a more than just a couple of accurate statements in order for someone who has put his name on the dozens of pieces that have said that Taiwan and China "split in 1949" to make up for such egregious offenses against reality.

Tim Maddog

David said...

At least the problems in Taiwan's judicial system are being laid out on the table for everyone to see. The use of the judiciary for political persecution is just one part of the problem. There is a deeper malaise related to a general incompetence. The article about the death penalty in Sunday's Taipei Times exposes some of these issues such as presumption of guilt, lack of proper representation for defendants and so on.

Thomas said...

"Wang said the meeting signaled the government's willingness to abdicate its authority to the ruling political party, much as the Nationalist Party dictated policy during martial law from 1947 to 1987."

This is an interesting comment. The unsaid element is that during most of the martial law period, the president was undoubtedly at the pinnacle of the KMT. The governments of CKS and CCK did not have to "abdicate their authority" to the KMT because they were the KMT supremos.

From this standpoint, Ma's abdication of his authority is indeed without precedent. He is not a KMT strongman, so when he allows the KMT to handle negotiations outside of the government, he is indeed giving up what power he has. But, paradoxically, he must give up his power to keep the wrath of the KMT from challenging his power. A Ma facing a hostile KMT AND a hostile DPP would fall overnight.

The Milligans said...

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Link works, but the article isn't there.