Friday, February 13, 2009

Robert Green in the Taiwan Journal on those Condescending foreigners and Taiwan Democracy

Robert Green, who used to be an editor of the Taiwan Review here a few years back during the Chen Administration, has a highly abstract, uninformed, and poorly-written commentary in Taiwan Journal on foreign critics of the recent human rights issues surrounding the Chen Shui-bian case:
Having adopted a system of democratic government that originated in the West, Taiwan at times is subjected to scrutiny of its institutions by Westerners that borders on the condescending. It is not that the questions asked are unfair but that the assumptions behind them often differ when applied to East and West. What in the West might be a bump in the road is in the East a potential threat to the very foundations of democracy. Instead of seeing a reflection of their own political development, Western observers of Asian civilization peer into the looking glass and sometimes see into a world of darkness and distortion, of sinister motive and illiberal governance.

In recent months, for example, Taiwan has been peppered with questions relating to the handling of the corruption trial of former President Chen Shui-bian. With no indication of any legal violations, the case against Chen has been characterized as a test for Taiwan's institutions of government and its dedication to the liberal tenets of democracy. Human rights organizations have put Taiwan on notice. Foreign governments are watching with interest. And the press has made insinuations entirely unsupported by the facts. The Far Eastern Economic Review, for example, proclaimed in a headline "Taiwan's Justice on Trial."
There's more in this vein. I often tell my writing students that good writing is concrete writing -- as is good thinking -- and here there is not a single concrete point. Green's entire "argument" -- such as it is -- consists of sneering at foreign critics for being condescending. Near the close Green writes:
What is on trial in Taiwan is the former president, not the judiciary or Taiwan's commitment to the rule of law. If the trial reinforces the need to carry out judicial proceedings in a fair and open manner, there is also a cautionary tale for those who watch the proceedings from a self-appointed position of superiority.
The lack of concrete here is striking, because Green ignores:

-- the removal of a judge who ruled in a way that the KMT did not like, and the transfer of Chen's case to another court, in violation of the usual practice in several important ways.

-- the clear evidence of a double standard and bias in the handling of Chen's case, from the detention and handcuffing, to the skit depicting him as an AIDS victim and drug addict.

-- the concerns of human rights organizations surrounding the detentions of other DPP members, which look as though they were done to extract confessions.

-- the trial by media

-- the past KMT history of authoritarianism, and the fact that many of the same players from that period are also players in this one.

and so on. Of course, Green had to ignore these issues, because to raise them would totally invalidate his point that the concerns are just misguided condescending foreigners looking down their noses at Taiwan and are "entirely unsupported by facts." For example, take this piece from those condescending foreigners:
Taiwan's judicial system has long been criticised by human rights advocates. They have questioned the arrests and detention of other members of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party. Prosecutors have leaked sensitive information that has led to trial by media. Sectors of society are suspicious of the impartiality of some judges, even though the judiciary has repeatedly asserted its independence.
"Trial by media!" Those condescending foreigners from the liberal western democracies! How can they stand themse... er... wait.... Sorry. That's from the usually pro-KMT South China Morning Post, published out of the advanced western democracy of Hong Kong, part of the liberal democratic state of China. I'm all confused here -- probably they got secretly taken over by a cabal of liberal condescending academics. In fact the mind control of the Condescending Foreigners was so effective, it even got the SCMP to publish scathing criticisms from President Ma's former law school mentor, the Chinese legal expert Jerome Cohen.

Never mind that! Now I've certainly found one from the scurrilous condescending foreigners:
First of all, pre-trial detention by the prosecution requires justifications. These justifications and evidence that a crime has been committed are two different matters. One cannot charge someone with a crime by relying solely upon accusations, without sufficient evidence. If one has sufficient evidence of guilt, one can indict. If one can prosecute, where is the need for detention? If the prosecution becomes accustomed to asking the court to detain suspects when the evidence is insufficient, it cannot escape the suspicion that suspects are being detained to extract evidence.

......

The power and responsibility to detain a suspect after indictment rests with the trial court. If the court is unconcerned about whether the trial can continue, then it may not detain the suspect. Allowing the prosecution to appeal to a higher court to consider whether to detain the suspect is also a very strange arrangement. Frankly it is the same premise of "one must be detained once indicted."
Whoops! Damn. I screwed up again. Or maybe a secret conspiracy of condescending liberal democratic media types has taken over the loyal KMT paper China Times, whose editorial I found on a foreign news site called the Kuomintang News Network. In fact the China Times fell so completely under the sway of those Condescending Foreigners it even made the condescending liberal statement in that same editorial:
To prove either guilt or innocence requires fair trials. Presuming either guilt or innocence during the trial process is the difference between a police state and a democratic nation under the rule of law. A system that clings to the premise that "one must be detained once indicted." does not meet the minimum standards for the rule of law.
Can you imagine such "self appointed superiority?" Why, that's nearly as great a position of "self-appointed superiority" as writing that Taiwan experts with years of experience who both support and opposed the current government, media organs from all over Asia and the rest of the world, international human rights and media freedom organizations, the head of at least one major western representative office here, local media, and pro-Taiwan organizations, are all wrong, and he, Robert Green, is right.

14 comments:

Stefan said...

Ouch, you almost have to feel sorry for the guy - that was a pretty hard spanking. Damn funny, though.

Anonymous said...

That's the kind of crap we've been hearing for years from journalists in regard to China. Funny seeing it applied to Taiwan. Sino-centric authoritarianism seems to be the only ideology these days that can get away with this.

Anonymous said...

That's kind of sad. The Taiwan Review is good. And why is Taiwan Journal shilling yet again?

Robert Green is ignoring all the domestic voices that are kicking and screaming about the rollback in civil rights and procedural law here. That's condescension. A few English articles here and there, and it trumps all the Taiwanese voices that were pissed about not being able to carry flags, not being able to properly protest, judges and prosecutors not evening pretending to be neutral.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the KMT overseers at the GIO have something to blackmail Robert Green with. Maybe he wrote what they wanted to be said, but the only way he could express defiance was to write it poorly.

Anonymous said...

What a poorly written piece of dribble. Pompous, delusional and utterly uninformed. Why would the Taiwan Journal publish such tripe? Shame TJ, shame.

Arty said...

Of course, Green had to ignore these issues, because to raise them would totally invalidate his point that the concerns are just misguided

Really...it is clear that I quote "with no indication of any legal violations, the case against Chen has been..." All the points you raised has not been a legal violations, am I right? Is it stupid? Maybe. Is it dirty? Probably. Is it legal? Definitely legal, and it is what the rules of law allow.

...Presuming either guilt or innocence during the trial process is the difference between a police state and a democratic nation under the rule of law. A system that clings to the premise that "one must be detained once indicted." does not meet the minimum standards for the rule of law...

Actually a lot old common law systems detains the indicted without proven of guilt. I think England and France still do it (I could be wrong). Damn the imperialist! It has nothing to do with concept of "innocence before proven guilty." Plus innocence is a big word compare to not guilty i.e. OJ Simpson was proven not guilty for killing his ex-wife; however, it does not mean he is innocent.

All I am saying as long as the prosecutor stays within the law of the land. It could only be beneficial to the legal system. Unlike someone who keep asking to be excused by court over fake health reason while breaking the law (her blood pressure is normal for people with her condition).

Can you imagine such "self appointed superiority?"

Look at who is talking :P Hey if your predictions were ever right, feel free to go at it.

Michael Turton said...

Really...it is clear that I quote "with no indication of any legal violations, the case against Chen has been..." All the points you raised has not been a legal violations, am I right? Is it stupid? Maybe. Is it dirty? Probably. Is it legal? Definitely legal, and it is what the rules of law allow.

I never said anything about the law, but instead, focused on the concrete issues that Green ignored.

As for the legal issues, it is not me but the pro-KMT China Times that accused the judicial system of acting unconstitutionally.

Michael

Ah-Ben said...

Arty (50 Cent'er?) seems to use the old 'well other countries do it that way so we can too' argument to justify the state of the rule of law in Taiwan. Michael's main point is that Green makes a Fallacy of Exclusion: evidence which would change the outcome of an inductive argument is excluded from consideration (from the great site: http://onegoodmove.org/fallacy/toc.htm). Arty makes the False Analogy: the two objects or events being compared are relevantly dissimilar eg Taiwan and France or UK. Following international standards on carbon emissions might help Taiwan but there is little need to look at other country's legal standards and penetration, integrity and effectiveness of rule of law for guidance on assessing the health of our own. We should set the highest standards for ourselves independently of other nations: why follow when we can lead? .. or is it a case of 'do the minimum'? The regular references by the KMT to the 'Singapore Model' is a concern since comparison is being made with a country with less rights than Taiwan. Why is it that when countries cite other countries' records they most often to so as a way to deflect attention from their own. It is rarely an upwards aspiring comparison but rather an apologetic 'at least we're not as bad as them' argument. eg don't complain about the KMT because look at the CCPs record.

Roy Berman said...

(Reposted in the correct place.)
While I agree with all your criticism, really what's the point of tearing apart an article posted in a government propaganda organ? Taiwan Journal is just a bunch of press releases from the current executive branch, not anything approaching a real journal, or even a lame magazine.

They may publish a piece on some interesting bit of local culture once in a while, but that's still nothing but tourism-promoting PR.

People are asking "Why would the Taiwan Journal publish such tripe?" but it's a silly question. Taiwan Journal is nothing but a PR newsletter from the Executive Yuan, and the disclaimer that "These views are the author's and not necessarily those of the TJ." is clearly bullshit.

Anonymous said...

When the Taiwan Review hired Green they were so desparate to find a foreign editor. At the time they couldn't get anyone to stay more than a year. Taiwan Journal has had a big foreign editor/writer turnover problem lately so that piece was probably one that flew under the radar or allowed in by a very uninfotmed staffer.

Anonymous said...

Robert Green has a reputation at the GIO as a "very, very, very good writer." Anything he scribbles will be published carte blanche. I also hear he has final say on the copy that goes to print. Case in point being his fight a year or so ago with the Taiwan Review's editors over their editing and headline selection. Green did not approve, so he pulled his piece and left the TR with a blank page several days before deadline.

Arty said...

Arty (50 Cent'er?) seems to use the old 'well other countries do it that way so we can too' argument to justify the state of the rule of law in Taiwan.

No, I just want to point out that Taiwan's system is based on the Napoleonic Code adopted and improved on by many European nations, followed by Japan, then Taiwan. I think a lot of readers are confused because when it is not like their ideal system or the American system (heck even the American legal system has the same fault), it must be wrong or something.

We should set the highest standards for ourselves independently of other nations: why follow when we can lead?

Exactly, therefore you should follow the law instead of breaking it. You may not like it, but like Green mentioned, no law was broken that's the highest standard in my book. We can do better is a notion and a idea which in reality the outcomes are usually from bad to worse far from ideal. I can give you many examples in the past world history. Of course, you are just going to accuse me of comparing to other countries. One thing I have to point out, during DPP administration, some of Chen's executive orders are in direct conflict with the law, and yet I don't see you guys crying.

Hey, if you listen to me, you will be more than 50 cents richer. My portfolio was a huge positive last year instead of > 30% down.

vin said...

I'm not clear on the import of your last sentence above, Arty. Are you offering to pay people to listen to you?

Anonymous said...

Robert Green is a complete joke. I read that he claims to be a "regular contributor to the Economist Intelligence Unit." Is there any proof of this smack?