Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Int'l Media: Two Views of the ChenTrial

Agence-France Presse (AFP), whose apparent pro-KMT slant has long been a topic of discussion on this blog, had another questionable piece on the Chen trial, whose pre-trial hearings began today... the AFP piece looks like it was written to make Chen look guilty:
The former leader has admitted that his wife transferred 20 million US dollars abroad but said that the money was from past campaign funds and that she had wired it without his knowledge.

He has also admitted submitting bogus expense forms while in office but said the money was used for "secret diplomatic missions" and not for personal benefit.

The judge ordered Chen to be sent back to his detention centre at the end of the morning hearing, and another hearing set for Wednesday was postponed to February 24 after lawyers said they needed more time to prepare.
Note that there is no backstory at all here. The article notes further down:
Taiwan's high court earlier this month rejected Chen's appeal against his detention, saying that if freed he "could destroy and tamper with the evidence and collude with other suspects or witnesses," or that he could flee.
AFP does not mention any of the issues that have created worldwide interest in Taiwan's prosecutors and judiciary -- no mention of the controversy over Chen's detention, no mention of the fact that Judge Chou was replaced by Judge Tsai, no mention of the skit, no mention of the letters and commentaries from prominent Taiwan watchers. Note that secret diplomatic purposes is in quotes, inviting the reader to view it skeptically. Yet Chen was the first president to be required to submit receipts for the fund, a clear indication of an offing set-up. AFP mentions the Yeh Sheng-mao case but does not mention that the intelligence chief was convicted of helping Chen Shui-bian commit crimes, though Chen's case had yet to be tried -- another indicator of apparent systemic bias. While the article notes that Wu got kickbacks, the testimony from fugitive Jeff Koo, who returned to Taiwan to claim he bribed the Chens on a land deal, but himself was not charged with any wrongdoing, is also unmentioned. The article instead dwells on what prosecutors "think", and prominently presents the judge's claim that Chen could destroy evidence and tamper with witnesses. The framing of the piece is obvious.

For a comparison, see Max Hirsch's piece for Kyodo which is much longer, a luxury in the international media, and notes the problems surrounding the trial of Chen:
Prosecutors, local media said, brought Monday new corruption and extortion charges against Chen to bolster their bid for life imprisonment.

Chen stepped down as president in May last year due to term limits. Allegations of corruption surrounding Chen, his family and aides led to landslide losses for his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the general and presidential elections last year.

Taiwan's judiciary has drawn widespread criticism for Chen's pre-trial detention; a sudden changing of judges mid-stream in an appeals process that led to Chen's continued pre-trial incarceration; and a comic skit performed by prosecutors at a recent Justice Ministry party mocking Chen at the moment of his Nov. 12 arrest. Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng, senior judges and other top justice officials attended that skit, fueling concerns over whether Chen will receive a fair trial.

''It's difficult to find words for what is, to be overly polite, a shocking lapse of professional ethics,'' said June Teufel Dreyer, an expert on Taiwan affairs at the University of Miami, referring to the Jan. 11 performance.

Local TV news footage showed prosecutors who were reportedly involved in Chen's case performing a stage play, with one female prosecutor raising her shackled wrists in a manner recalling Chen's arrest and repeating verbatim his complaints of police abuse. The audience can be heard laughing and clapping. ''It was just a comic skit to help everybody relax,'' Wang said at a Taipei press conference. ''There's no need to take it so seriously.''

But criticisms have mounted, with current President Ma Ying-jeou's Harvard Law School mentor, Jerome Cohen, slamming legal proceedings in Chen's case for their ''disturbing circus atmosphere.''
By discussing the "circus atmosphere" and many of the other incidents surrounding the case, Hirsch's presentation gives a far more balanced view than the AFP piece. The latter could not have mentioned everything, but the failure to mention anything at all is damning.

UPDATED: CNA reports that the departing UK rep here also had a few things to say about the Chen trial:
BTCO head concerned about issues pertinent to trial of ex-president

Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) The top British representative in Taiwan on Monday expressed concerns related the trial of former President Chen Shui-bian, who has been charged with money laundering, corruption and forgery, saying that judicial impartiality and the concept that everyone is innocent until proven guilty is fundamental to justice.

Michael Reilly, director of the Taipei-based British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO), made the remarks at a press conference held before he concludes his term in Taiwan. He will be returning to the U.K. Jan. 20.....
UPDATE 2: Compare also the balanced, thorough, and informative article from AP's Peter Enav on the same topic.


Anonymous said...

You notice in the French piece, Chen is not a former president, but a former "leader". That's Beijing speak.

Anonymous said...

Chen's wife could most likely be described as 'bitter' to say the least considering that she was confined to a wheel chair as a result of a past KMT crime. Perhaps this led to poor judgement.

To request life imprisonment for Chen is really a political move because Abian is the only real star power the DDP has. No one has stepped up to the plate any where near as powerful as he is.

Anonymous said...

"Allegations of corruption surrounding Chen, his family and aides..."

Didn't Chen's son-in-law go to prison over corruption?

That's not alleged.

Oh, and having to submit receipts is a set-up in the making? Come on! Nobody forced them to take any of that money. Its not as if they make minimum wage and were forced to use those funds or starve.

The KMT are idiots for interfering in the judicial process, though, that much is true.

Red A

Michael Turton said...

Oh, and having to submit receipts is a set-up in the making? Come on! Nobody forced them to take any of that money. Its not as if they make minimum wage and were forced to use those funds or starve.

I think you misunderstood my point.

The funds were for secret diplomatic work that of course has no receipts -- do dissidents give receipts? Previous presidents were not required to submit receipts. Naturally any receipts submitted would be false. Which meant that you could always nail the preznit for submitting false receipts....

...the whole thing is probably a fishing expedition to see which dissident groups in China the DPP government was funding.


Tommy said...

Well now that the two youngn's have pleaded guilty, you can pretty much bet that none of this will matter. The KMT and Ma will feel vindicated, despite how valid the international criticism is.

Unknown said...

Michael wrote:

"The funds were for secret diplomatic work that of course has no receipts -- do dissidents give receipts? "

Well, yes dissidents do give receipts. Why not? just sign a piece of paper saying that 'I received this amount from so and so'. What's the problem? I've made donations to dissident groups myself and received receipts. It is not like the receipt must be in triplicates and reported to the IRS as public record.

Michael said "Previous presidents were not required to submit receipts."
This is irrelevant. If this is a valid excuse then you can not enact any new laws or rules.

Michael then said "...the whole thing is probably a fishing expedition to see which dissident groups in China the DPP government was funding."
I noticed you qualified this by "probably" so you were not seriously alleging this. Nevertheless, you meant to imply that this was a fishing expedition set up by the old KMT gov't under Lee as a gotcha for Abian?! That's just crazy talk. Looks to me like this is a hole that should have been plugged long ago.