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.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:
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."
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.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:
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."
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.