Thursday, January 15, 2009

Unbelievable Prosecutor's Skit Makes the International News

A couple of days ago, for the 63rd annual law day, the Taipei prosecutors' office staged a skit that looks an awful lot like it was slyly aimed at Chen Shui-bian, with prosecutors playing the parts. My man Taiwan Echo has a description and vids on his blog. Local news reports are here in Chinese and Taipei Times.

The skit has now made the Big Time, with AP reporting in the International Herald Tribune....:
At least one of the prosecutors appearing in the skit is involved in the investigation of Chen, who has proclaimed his innocence.

Chen was originally jailed for 32 days to allow prosecutors to build their case against him, then ordered freed on his own recognizance by a Taipei court. However, he was returned to jail on Dec. 29 after a new panel of judges at the court heard the prosecutors' second appeal against him.

Wang said the skit should not be taken seriously, because it reflected widespread sentiment on this island of 23 million people.

"It is just a little performance reflecting on current affairs," Wang said. "Prosecutors and judges will not hold any biases against Chen, and his trial will be open for all to see."

However, Sue Wang, a spokeswoman for Chen, said that the performance undermined fundamental judicial principles.

"The skit violated the idea that prosecutors should not comment on a particular case, and was intended to humiliate Chen," she said.

Judicial independence remains a sensitive issue on Taiwan, where the one-party dictatorship of the ruling Nationalist Party began to give way to democratic reforms only in the mid-1980s.

President Ma Ying-jeou, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has repeatedly professed his commitment to the rule of law.

However, his government has been criticized at home and abroad for the procedures surrounding the decision to send Chen back to jail and for a series of prosecutions against other former officials in the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

The DPP's Chen ran Taiwan for eight years until last year, when Ma handily defeated DPP candidate Frank Hsieh's in the island's fourth direct presidential elections.

"Since the Ma administration took power there have been signs of regression in judicial reform, due process of law and judicial credibility," Next Magazine, a mass circulation weekly, said in an editorial published Wednesday.
...and Max Hirsch of Japan's Kyodo News reporting...
Wang admitted in a Taipei press conference the skit depicted Chen's arrest, but dismissed concerns over whether the judiciary lacks the professional ethics and impartiality to fairly try Chen. Besides Wang, many senior judges and other top justice officials were in the audience, local media said.

''It was just a play to help everybody relax. There's no reason to take it too seriously,'' Wang said.

The prosecutors in the play, she added, ''were reflecting public sentiment'' with their performance ''just like movies or Broadway plays.''
Everyone involved with this needs to be reprimanded and transferred away from the Chen Shui-bian case. Note that the skit did not mention Chen directly, instead portraying an addict who claims to have AIDS and who then behaves as Chen did, speaking his words. The Ministry could have simply denied it was about Chen. Instead the Ministry said it was OK because it reflected the sentiment on the island, in effect confirming that it was about former President Chen.

The concept of using an AIDS victim/druggie (read leper) to represent Chen as a pariah and social outcast says all sorts of things about the way the prosecutorial class sees the Chen case as a purity/impurity violation and a social class violation -- probably most Chinese speakers here will have heard remarks from Blues about how low-class the Taiwanese are, and how shocking it was to have a Taiwanese President of "our ROC".

Of course, even if Chen had never existed, the fact that prosecutors had chosen to mock a drug addict and AIDs victim would still be something for which they should be censured. This whole event stinks, and I hope punishments are meted out, and international observers register their complaints.


Anonymous said...

"Wang said the skit should not be taken seriously, because it reflected widespread sentiment on this island of 23 million people."

We've seen this time and time again. The baseless ad-hoc "public opinion survey" to excuse the circumvention of due process when it is politically advantageous.

In the world of the KMT's public opinion, Chen has already been found guilty of all high crimes and misdemeanors, with only the death sentence pending.

David said...

The only good thing I can say is that every day is one day closer to an inevitable cabinet reshuffle. And staff from Freedom House are here and will no doubt be aware of this.

Anonymous said...

"... I hope punishments are meted out, and international observers register their complaints...". absolutely agree, these prosecutors have embarrased themselves for the very least. so ridiculous that foreigners might consider this a falsely glorified report by the media until they see it for themselves.

Anonymous said...

i surely did not until i watched the footage with my own eyes. was about to check what other meanings the word "skit" has on, only stopped when i ran the video link and realised... -_-!

Anonymous said...

Even Next Magazine...
Really, Taiwan is upside down...

skiingkow said...

I didn't hear the part about them mocking a drug addict and aids victim.


Are these Nazis we're talking about here? The ignorance, insensitivity and sheer stupidity of this event is mind-boggling.

And, give it time -- they will find a way to top even this.

Michael Fahey said...

A disgraceful episode even without element of satire. What were they thinking?

Anonymous said...

Taiwan's judicial system is a joke. The KMT should be ashamed.

Tim Maddog said...

It's good to see the press shaming Minister of "Just Us" Wang Ching-feng (王清峰). (Too bad the IHT made the [awkward] headline about her defending those indefensible actions. Wang has denied commenting on individual cases.)

And since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a stranglehold on the media, that "public sentiment" is of their own creation.

Also, although Wang Ching-feng speaks of this as if it were an isolated incident (even then it would be wrong), it is just one element in an endless series of things revealing the judiciary's bias against people like Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Y'think this will get everybody's attention?

Tim Maddog

Tim Maddog said...

I should rephrase slightly...

What I wrote above about "that 'public sentiment'" should instead read "any such 'public sentiment.'" There are some people who can see through the propaganda.

Tim Maddog