Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Open Letter Stirs Up Firestorm

Whoa! I leave for a few days to Kenting, and all heck breaks loose up in Taipei. First, an Open Letter from 34 academics and Taiwan watchers said that the accusation that 36,000 documents went missing during the Chen Administration looks an awful lot like a political attack. The Open Letter noted:
We are disquieted by the timing of this announcement. If any documents had been “missing,” this should have been noted during the transition period between the DPP administration and your government in 2008. To come up with this matter three years later, when the primaries for next year’s presidential elections are underway, suggests a political motive.

Moreover, the announcement of the “missing documents” came one day before Su declared his candidacy in the DPP presidential primary. Su will undoubtedly play an important role in the upcoming presidential elections, either as a candidate himself or as a supporter of the eventual candidate. Announcing an investigation of him and the others at this time certainly gives the impression of a political ploy intended to discredit the DPP and its candidates.
While this group of academics and Taiwan observers had fired off several missives before, none seemed to provoke the intense reaction that the this letter has. Perhaps because the Presidential Office attack on the DPP, with an election due early next year, looks so transparently political. I noted it in the earlier post, but let's say it again -- papers are handled and filed by peons, not high-ranking officials. If this were a real investigation, many lower-ranking officials would be included in the investigation -- including the DPP staffers that Presidential Office spokesman Lo claimed handled all these affairs in his apologia (see below). [ADDED: An article in the Liberty Times pointed out that the KMT staffers who handled the Chen-Ma transition should also be investigated.] But it appears to be aimed only at high level members of the DPP.

Note also the logical brilliance of the accusation -- it neatly puts the DPPers in the position of having to prove a negative: "I don't have the documents." How can that be proved?

The KMT talking points followed a predictable pattern... first they were announced on the talk shows, then the various spokesman repeated them:

1. the academics are ignorant foreigners (here)
Presidential Office Spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said it was “unfair” for foreigners who knew little about the situation to “recklessly interfere in and criticize” the legal means President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has adopted to deal with the matter and label it as a “political ploy.”
Actually, at least one of the signatories is a local citizen.

2. the academics are infringing on Taiwan's sovereignty -- an ironic comment coming from the KMT.
3. the academics are disrespecting Taiwan's rule of law. (here)
James Chang, the ministry's spokesman, said the government has a code that regulates the handling of the nation's files, and he asked that people from abroad respect the Republic of China's rule of law.

"We are acting in accordance with the law, " said Chang, who was referring to a recent open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou signed by 34 foreign academics and former officials, including former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Nat Bellocchi.

4. The academics are tools of the DPP -- several individuals made this accusation. That is, frankly, laughable. A couple of KMTers complained the letter was just a ploy on behalf of Su Tseng-chang, since the letter mentioned his name -- but only to note the timing of the accusation. This was just grasping at straws; the DPP had nothing to do with the drafting of the letter.

The KMT was eager to exploit this -- not only sending out the government agencies to blast the group of academics, but also the Presidential Office itself. This was a rather strange strategy, since if the KMT wanted to insist this investigation was not a political ploy, it probably shouldn't have handed off the rebuttal to the political side (!).

The Taipei Times editorialized on the affair, questioning whether the KMT with its "just following the law" approach was engaging in rule of law, or rule by law, Chinese style. It observed:
Worryingly, justification for police action against specific groups by claiming rule of law and order is an instrument the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has refined for more than 60 years. However anodyne the act, by arresting or harassing individuals the CCP has repeatedly quoted the law, in the process creating the illusion that the law-abiding state has no choice but to take action. In reality, it is the CCP, not the alleged “criminal,” that is the real enemy of the state, as rule by law is used to crush dissent and eliminate whoever threatens the party’s hold on power.
The full point by point rebuttal from the Presidential Office spokesman is given in this article. Some it is clever, other bits are lame. Interestingly, the China Post, the pro-KMT English paper, doesn't appear to have reported on this. Can anyone find me their articles?

UPDATED: Good comments below, thanks SY.

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23 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the KMT station can broadcast prosecutors raiding any DPP representative or former representative's offices or residence, it carries the implication of guilt in a trial by media... and thus the KMT earns a victory.

Anonymous said...

Gosh... this may create problems for the timed leveraging of new charges against Chen Shui-bian or the "discovery" of new information related to the former first lady.... information that will be made public... a few months before the election.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your informative blog posting. It's very thorough!

Anonymous said...

If it were political, it'd be right before the election, not almost a year out. I hardly think it's going to sway the opinions of DPP members voting in primaries. It's either a complete cock-up by the KMT (if it's an attempt to be political) or it is what the govt / prosecutors say it is.

Anonymous said...

And here I was expecting that travel writer to argue that Taipei was the real Taiwan as a rebuttal to the narrative that the real Taiwan is anywhere but Taipei and its vicinity ... that would have been more interesting to read.

I also wish you could have expressed your opinion on the rule of law / rule by law article without resorting to ableist language. Please read:

http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2009/06/16/why-not-to-use-the-word-lame-i-think-im-starting-to-get-it/

-MSK

Michael Turton said...

No if it is political it has to occur early, to allow for the constant flow of new discoveries and claims, the investigations, the smears, and so on. It will also give prosecutors access to DPP offices during the election.

Anonymous said...

More reason to run Tsai. She wasn't apart of the Chen network and the KMT will have a harder time pinning her to the administration. Shit, it is easier to pin Ma Ying-jiu to the old dictatorship than it is to tie Tsai to Chen Shui-bian.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I have a friend who works at the China Post as a copy editor, the pro-KMT English paper, and he told me that of course the Post has not reported on this. Why would they? They support the KMT version of "truth" 100 percent.

Therefore you question is moot: ''Can anyone find me their articles?''


No, because there aren't any. same with michael Coles front page TT story last Saturday accusing the China Post of printing soft propanda from Beijing in every friday's insert called CHINA REPORTS, and GIo did not even know. check that story out. and of course the POSt will never admit this or even reprot it.

you should.

Trevor, in Cornwall
UK observer of ROC truce

Michael said...

Someone pointed out to me that the KMT may actually have welcomed the letter since (a) gave them a chance to heat up an issue that had met with a tepid reception and (b) helps distract people from Ma's disastrous judicial nominations.

SY said...

A pro-KMT Taiwanese lady who has been working in the TW government for the past 30 years gave me the following information:

The Chen Shui-Bian government had an e-Government initiative. Taiwan under Chen used to rank Number One or Two (among 198 nations) in the annual e-Government survey done by Brown University.

See this Brown Univ article which listed the 2006 result with the 2005 ranking in parentheses.

At the end of Chen's tenure of office, Taiwan's governmental documents were basically all filed and handled electronically; at least, all had an electronic, archived copy (scanned or originally electronic.)

The said lady, still pro-KMT, told me that it is impossible for any document to disappear; let alone over 36,000 documents.

Ma's team seems to fancy still living in the 1950's when everything was painfully archived in papers.

Anonymous said...

SY

Excellent observation.

The Ma administration would like to bring Taiwan back to the 50's.

You notice the effort to drive public cynicism of democracy as "inefficient", and the repeated reference to government bickering, gridlock and unrest?

I believe this is being done on purpose to promote a Singapore style system as a Chinese region with a powerful administrator.

The KMT wants Taiwanese to forsake the "trouble" a multi-party democracy causes and they are frequently blaming the system for all the "chaos".

This is just one more attempt to promote voter apathy and indifference in the political system.

Hans said...

Thanks, SY,

that's a very helpful insight.

I remembered that time the Chen administration hired a whole lot of "on-contract" employees to on one hand lower the unemployment rate, while on the other hand convert the archives into electronics.

Hans

Karl said...

"Ableist language"



*snort*

Anonymous said...

•A part-time coffee professional -- whatever that means -- and travel writer and food blogger from NYC -- who does not know Xiao Long Bao --steamed dumplings -- from Tang Bao -- soup dumplings -- claims Taipei is The Real Taiwan, even though like all fearful fliers she can't stant the smell of cho dofu and calls eatng it a "rite of psssage".... again, the parachuting foreign wannabe reporter with a friend in the Wash Post travel section gest her letter home printed as a real news article when it's just lonely Planet remixed. Why do they keep coming here?

-- Trevor in UK, tired of all theswe parachuting journos who stay for a week and think they know Taiwan. AS if. So everyone carries umbrellas in the summer? The side streets of Taipei are claustrophobic? And everyone rides mopeds? She actually wrote mopeds. Is a motor scooter a moped? how do these so called travel writers get their assignemnts? Don't they need a license to call themselves that?

Anonymous said...

Trevor in Cornwall UK with imp mssg:

Peng Ming-min did a very good op-edit in the Taipei Times on Saturday titled, “Doubts over fortitude of Taiwanese democracy” .... It was a well-stated and distressing assessment of the situation in Taiwan, and doubtless accurate. I assume that this was also published in Chinese in the Liberty Times.

Peng's oped brings up not only growing threats to Taiwanese people, but it brings up to the possibility of an immediate threat to Peng personally. Many of my friends here in the UK have asked me about the danger of Peng's returning to Taiwan. Neither the KMT nor the CCP have forgiven him for escaping to Sweden in 1970 and making the KMT look like fools.

Peng may be old and may be out of touch in Taiwan. What say you? The KMT is still one of THE richest political parties in the world. If the Mainland could have been bought, they would have done it years ago with money still in the bank. I have seen nothing in the KMT to make me think it not able and willing to do everything Peng fears.

We here in the UK who love Taiwan can do little about Taiwan. The people there have to decide the limit of their toleration for themselves. Maybe they have and "life under the PRC wouldn't be so bad" may be what they've concluded, just like the majority here in the UK may have written off the immigrants and the poor.

As they say "ou va la france?" where is France headed, which really means for Taiwan: Where is Taiwan headed. Was Peng's oped on Saturday prophetic or old White Terror paranoia?

Would love to hear your answer sire.

Trevor UK man in Cornwall

SoCalExpat said...

"Someone pointed out to me that the KMT may actually have welcomed the letter"

I think the letter is a godsend to the KMT, that is why they are making a big deal out of it.
There is really nothing new or suprising about the letter as it is the usual stuff from FAPA, FF, Heritage, etc. I feel sorry for Gordon Chang. Gordon wrote the best selling "coming collapse of China" in 2001 and since that time, China's economy has doubled and overtaken Japan as the world's #2. I wonder if Gordon has any predictions about Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

same with michael Coles front page TT story last Saturday accusing the China Post of printing soft propanda from Beijing in every friday's insert called CHINA REPORTS,

Cole's article is a good example of why the TT will never be taken seriously as a news source. The China Reports insert has been included for months, so it's not exactly news to report on it. And anyone who's ever bothered to pick up a copy and read it will see immediately that there's nothing political in it at all.

Anonymous said...

Foreign ministry to probe open letter by 34 expats to [mainlardner] [sic] Ma Ying-jeou

By Shih Hsiu-chuan / Taipei Times Staff Reporter

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is looking into a petition by 34 foreign academics and former government officials that criticized President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration over government accusations that 17 former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials failed to return 36,000 official documents.

The open letter, dated April 8 and published in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) on April 10 and the Taipei Times the following day, was co-signed by Nat Bellocchi, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan and 33 academics, writers and former government officials from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia.

Following the letter’s publication, some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers, including Chiu Yi (邱毅), appeared on TV talk shows on Monday night and questioned whether the signatories were fully aware of the content of the letter.

Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), head of the ministry’s Department of North American Affairs, said yesterday the ministry would contact each of the signatories to check if they initiated the petition themselves or just added their names to it, what their concerns were and what exactly they knew about the matter.

“We heard that Bellocchi seldom goes out nowadays and it is not so often that people have a chance to talk to him. It seems he has not been well recently. We are checking this out,” Linghu said.

Linghu said the ministry would make it clear to the signatories that the government’s decision to turn over the missing documents’ case to the Control Yuan for investigation was made based on the law and would ask them to respect Taiwan’s legal system.

At a separate setting, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Hou (侯清山) told the legislature’s Foreign and Defense Committee the ministry had demanded that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US look into the matter on Monday, with results expected in a week.

KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) yesterday asked Hou to give him a copy of the original letter along with other open letters addressed to Ma by Bellocchi and others in recent years.

“This was the sixth letter. Has the ministry ever tried to get the original English copies? The letter [in the Liberty Times] was written in Chinese. I don’t believe that all the 34 academics [who signed it] understand Chinese and are able to write Chinese characters. Was the original version in Chinese or English?” Chiang said.

Chiang said he doubted the original letter was written in English, as the ministry has said.

“It’s a reasonable assumption that the letter was originally written in Chinese. [Bellocchi] had a written Chinese version in place and had others put their names on it. Their position has been clear, which is to attack the Ma Ying-jeou administration, accusing it of taking democracy a step backward, abusing political power and harboring political motives,” Chiang said.

Chiang said Bellocchi “deserved condemnation for interfering with the country’s internal affairs” because he had been an official with the US State Department attending to foreign affairs concerning Taiwan.

Chiang said Bellocchi has lost his credibility and objectivity in commenting on issues related to Taiwan because he has been close to the DPP and has had his articles published in the Liberty Times after his retirement, which clearly showed his political inclinations.

This story has been viewed 623,680 times.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8>23 am above,

re: "JM Cole's article is a good example of why the TT will never be taken seriously as a news source. The ''China Reports'' insert has been included for months, so it's not exactly news to report on it. And anyone who's ever bothered to pick up a copy and read it will see immediately that there's nothing political in it at all.''

Anon, you seem anti-TT and angry expat. Why? TT is taken seriously by all those who value freedeom and truth, and since you vote with the China Posties, why are you on this blog? this is for freedom people, not reactionaries. There IS something political about the CHINA POST (should be called THE TAIWAN POST or the TAIPEI POST, since we are not living in CHINA) and that is because the CHINA POST agrees to publish soft propaganda from Beijing and hides the fact by not printing the bylines or names of the publisher of the insert, which is a violation of ROC law. You are a law-abiding person, anon at 823, aren't you?

When they come to arrest you, I meant the Chicoms, give us a shout!

Anonymous said...

"Chiang said Bellocchi “deserved condemnation for interfering with the country’s internal affairs” because he had been an official with the US State Department attending to foreign affairs concerning Taiwan."


I love this quote. Does it sound like a statement an official from a neighboring country might make.

SoCalExpat said...

"Anon, you seem anti-TT and angry expat. Why? TT is taken seriously by all those who value freedeom and truth"

Actually, most Taiwanese who value freedom and truth turn to Hong Kong media (Apple, Next, TVBS, etc). Hong Kong media is gaining so much readership in Taiwan because Taiwanese view it as more objective as compared to local Taiwanese media which is so blatantly biased either blue or green. For example, Apple Daily skewers the blue and the green equally; moderate Taiwanese really appreciate that.

Anonymous said...

Anon, you seem anti-TT and angry expat. Why? TT is taken seriously by all those who value freedeom and truth,

Not angry, not an expat and I hold the CP in the same regard. TT is only taken seriously by those who hold political views that the TT agrees with.

Michael Turton said...

Not angry, not an expat and I hold the CP in the same regard. TT is only taken seriously by those who hold political views that the TT agrees with.

Incorrect. The TT is widely read because it is regarded as the most reliable of the English papers in Taiwan; the KMT was bitching about its dominance last year after a visit to DC where the rep was surprised to find everyone reading it.

Poor quality presentation by pro-KMTers in English appears to be inevitable.