Lots and lots of things happening this week, and plenty of commentary on the Chen trial and verdict. The Economist, whose failures on Morakot/Dalai Lama were revolting, put out a much better piece on the Chen Verdict this week:
Mr Chen’s supporters, pointing to his life sentence, and to the 20- and 16-year sentences meted out respectively to two of his aides, claim a political vendetta by the KMT, orchestrated by Mr Ma. That would hardly be in keeping with the clean-guy image of Mr Ma, a Harvard-trained lawyer. It would also throw into question how far Taiwan has really come as a law-based democracy. But it is more plausible to blame the trial’s flaws on a legal system that has only imperfectly made the leap from being venal and biddable under dictatorship towards judicial independence and due process. Six years ago Taiwan’s judge-prosecutors were replaced by a system in which impartial judges are meant to hear out the case for the prosecution and the defence. Mr Tsai’s open hostility to Mr Chen during the trial suggests some old-school attitudes are hard to shake off....of course, the government has been rather dilatory in actually carrying that out, as visitors to Chen in jail have observed.
What is more, prosecutors’ immense powers, including the practice of interrogating an individual without letting him know what he is said to have done, remain a blot on democracy. Shameful too was the skit performed at the prosecutors’ annual dinner in which mockery was made of Mr Chen famously protesting at the humiliation of having to wear handcuffs. No rebuke came from the government. Now the justice ministry threatens to disbar Mr Chen’s lawyer, Cheng Wen-lung, for questioning the fairness of the judicial process. That smacks, says Jerome Cohen, Mr Ma’s former law professor, now at New York University, of the persecution of human-rights lawyers in China.
What conclusions you draw about the future rule of law in Taiwan depend on whether you believe Mr Chen’ s trial was politically motivated or not. If not—and the investigation of Mr Chen, after all, began when he was still president—then the trial of a former president is surely a landmark. What is more, the legal system is responding to the trial’s shortcomings. For instance, thanks to a challenge by Mr Chen, the prosecutors’ insistence that they attend and record meetings between defendants and their counsel has now been ruled unconstitutional.
Jerome Cohen had a widely circulated piece in the South China Morning Post, which hilariously insisted that the Chen trial was not a political vendetta, but then listed many of the more bizarre events. Read on:
The case against Chen and many family members and associates is a landmark for many reasons. It is a major blow against the massive corruption and secret political donations that have plagued Taiwan's vibrant young democracy.A "major blow against the massive corruption and secret political donations?" Reading that, one feels like Mozart in Amadeus....
It is not a political vendetta by the newly installed government of President Ma Ying-jeou against the defeated opposition but a monumental demonstration that no one is above the law - not even a president.
One hears such sounds......sad that, in the end, Cohen could not read the trial in any other way but the one the KMT wanted it read. Everyone will go home, interest will fade, and the construction-industrial state will continue to water the patronage networks that keep the Blues in power, and the "massive blow against corruption" will have precisely zero effect on anything except the DPP's electoral chances.
...and what can one say but...
- 12 students pile on, capture, thief. Kids, don't do this at home.
- Japan to release Taiwan fishermen captured in the Senkakus.
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