The horrific murder of a four year old girl in front of her mother two days ago has once again brought the death penalty to the fore. The poor child was beheaded in a senseless, entirely random act of violence by a mentally ill man. This was followed by two more apparently random attacks (FocusTw). The media sadly jumped on the attack of the little girl, sensationalizing it as clickbait and a ratings driver, a feeding frenzy that probably helped create the atmosphere for the two other random attacks. A vigilante mob beat up the killer, as well (Apple in Chinese).
In Taiwan the death penalty has wide and deeply visceral support. Taiwanese seem to feel that only a life can expiate a life, and it is difficult to move them off that position. As Ben Goren observed on Twitter after the deputy mayor of Taipei idiotically blamed the parents of the killer and called for an apology from them, events like this bring out Taiwan's feudalistic culture of collective guilt and punishment. J Michael Cole meditates on the issue here, pointing out that the death penalty has no deterrent effect, but more importantly noting that Taiwan's judicial system cannot be trusted, and that its mental health system is lacking.
The mother of the murdered child has asked that the case not be used by death penalty advocates in a moving Facebook post, and said that the killer was irrational and the case should be treated as a mental health issue.
Too late, not merely death penalty advocates, but the KMT itself is exploiting the case. FocusTaiwan reported:
The newly elected chairwoman of the KMT, Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), questioned those opposed to capital punishment, asking "Are you still in favor of abolishing the death penalty?" while expressing her support for the bill proposed by Wang."those opposed to capital punishment" of course means many politicians on the pro-Taiwan side. In the recent election many KMTers made a campaign issue out of it...
I wrote on the CPI blog in December about this picture:
This KMT candidate, Shen Jih-hui, was the only one in Taichung to have a poster of herself with former KMT Presidential Candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (sorely missed by this blogger). This sign boldly states that the DPP will scrap the death penalty, thus “not supporting a life for a life” which is a principle with deep roots in the local culture. The death penalty is popular in Taiwan, and she proudly proclaims her support for this ancient principle.Some of her other signs called for the death penalty for drug dealers.
The KMT is attempting to make this an issue that it owns, one of the few in which it is aligned with the public, which it can bash the DPP with. The Taiwan Law blog commented on KMT legislators arguing for a referendum to make abolition of the death penalty illegal...
Taiwan Law Blog @TaiwanLawBlog o....never mind that the referendum law is badly in need of revision. NPP Legislator Freddy Lim (the lead singer for Chthonic), who spoke out against the death penalty, saw his Facebook page flooded with angry comments from netizens demanding that the killer be put to death. I am proud to say that my legislator, the NPP's Hung Tz-yung, also spoke out against the death penalty. Other legislators from the NPP with a history of opposition to the death penalty were also publicly abused. The Chairman weakly temporized, saying that his party has never advocated against the death penalty.
Taiwan Law Blog Retweeted 中時電子報
KMT legislators mull referendum against abolition of death penalty. Do they realize death penalty is still the law?
This debate is merely the latest example of the KMT exploiting the death penalty discussion for political gain. In 2010, readers may recall, the Justice Minister was forced to resign after giving a newspaper interview which stirred up a public debate on the topic. The result was that a few weeks executions, which had quietly been on hold since 2005, were resumed and four more humans were killed, while KMT politicians called for more executions.
The KMT looks like it will be the party of the death penalty. Nothing new there...
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