Friday, September 11, 2009

Chen Gets Life =UPDATED=

We'll let the Financial Times carry the ball, it shows the good and the bad of the media reporting:
Judge Tsai Shou-hsun gave the 59-year-old former president the harshest possible sentence for the charges and fined him T$200m ($6.1m). Former first lady Wu Shu-jen, who was also convicted of corruption, was also given a life sentence but will not have to go to prison because of her frail health. She was fined T$300m ($9.2m).

“One person’s greed has caused chaos throughout the whole country,” Judge Tsai said.
"Chaos throughout the whole country!" Wouldn't want to be revealing any biases, would ya, Judge Tsai? ROFL. The life sentence was in the cards back when prosecutors piled on new charges several months ago, which the media then breathlessly reported could result in life, signaling where everything was going. It was also in the cards when the judges were switched under heavy pressure from the KMT. And when Chen was detained again and again. And when.....

A life sentence for Wu, Chen's crippled wife, would probably be very short. FT also reported on the case, letting readers know that there was another point of view on Chen:
Mr Chen was Taiwan’s only president not to come from the nationalist Kuomintang party, which fled to Taiwan in 1949 after civil war in China. While many Taiwanese have since become disillusioned with him and his family, there was also growing disquiet through the course of the trial over Mr Chen’s treatment by the authorities.
Lots of media reports pointed out that the Chen trials were seen by many as rigged. Kudos, mediafolks. But even better, AFP actually reported that foreign experts had expressed concerns about the trial, not merely Chen's supporters:

Some legal experts had expressed concern about the handling of the case, including the court's decision to detain Chen before his trial and to switch the presiding judge.

Jerome A. Cohen, a US legal scholar and President Ma's former tutor at Harvard University, said that if there were an appeal, he would prefer to see Chen released for the time being.

"Every society has to protect human rights. This is a long process and a learning process for Taiwan. It is a very sad day, it is also a very important day," he told reporters.

The balance and high quality of the AFP piece, including its reconfiguration of The 'split in 1949' Formula, is a welcome change from previous AFP work. Good work, folks.

I am informed that it is normal to be out on appeal before such sentences are imposed. Whether they will let Chen out during the appeal process, we'll know on Monday, I'm told. Note that because there are so many charges, it will be difficult for Chen to win an appeal on all.

Back to FT -- ya gotta love this hoot from FT, describing his tenure as president:
Foreign and domestic investors alike despaired of the ever-increasing tensions with China and the harm that would do to Taiwan’s export-oriented economy.
Pure horseshit, this belief (not to pick on FT, these constructions are common). It is certainly true that there people who did buy this propaganda (Taipei seems full of them), but the reality is that foreign direct investment reached record highs in 2006, again in 2007... in Jan of 2008 the CEPD noted:
Foreign investment over the years has also seen a notable increase. The CEPD said that, from 2001 to 2006, yearly foreign investment averaged USD 5.69 billion – nearly twice the yearly average from 1993-1999 (USD 2.85 billion). Moreover, 2006 saw a record-breaking total in foreign investment of USD 13.97 billion. From Jan. to Oct. of 2007, foreign investment totaled USD 12.93 billion, said the CEPD.
Yes, the investment climate sure sucked, being much better than under Lee Teng-hui. If investors were worried, they sure didn't show it until 2008, when at last there was a downturn, though in the first four months it rose again year on year. There's no need to even discuss exports, which reached record highs under Chen, with Taiwan passing Korea as the number 2 exporter to China. Sure am glad Ma Ying-jeou has saved us with record economic growth, rising exports, low unemployment, and booming income growth. The nation is hardly recognizable....

It would be nice if this piece had contextualized these claims with the facts. Imagine if the last sentence in the FT piece had been followed by a sentence that described the actual economic performance of Taiwan under the Chen Administration.

FT then crashes and burns:
Politically, however, Mr Chen was a survivor who eked out a narrow re-election victory in 2004 and remained in office even after his widening corruption scandal prompted an impeachment attempt backed by island-wide protests that were the biggest in Taiwan’s history.
No mention that the "island-wide protests" appear to have been orchestrated by the Nationalists and contained almost entirely pan-Blues, as reported early on by FT itself, AP, and finally, conceded by their putative leader, Shih Ming-te, in his interview with Keith Bradsher in the NYTimes. And wouldn't it have been better to add "by the KMT-dominated legislature" after "impeachment attempt?" Finally, the anti-secession law protests in were probably bigger -- even the low police estimate was a million. That's debateable, however.

It ain't over. The appeals could drag on for years.....

Reports from BBC, Taiwan News, AFP's surprisingly excellent and very balanced report including quote from Jerome Cohen, CNN, AP's sturdily balanced and detailed report, the Asia Times piece with a hilarious faith-statement quote from a Hong Kong academic instead of a Taiwan one, a cite of a KMT legislator, and a cite of a China Taiwan specialist. No bias there. UPDATE: Demotix, citizen journalist site, with excellent spread of pics on the scene at the court. UPDATE 2: Taiwan News rips the verdict in advance.

UPDATE 3: Excellent comments below, don't miss'em. Note that the people who "bribed" Chen are getting slaps on the wrist.
Daily Links:
EVENTS: The Age of Stupid premieres on Sept 22 in Taiwan. Film is about a man in 2055 looking back on 2008 and wondering why we let global warming destroy the world. Starts at 1:30 at the 台北市國軍文藝活動中心Armed Forces Cultural Center 69 Chunghwa Rd. Sec. 1, Taipei

Also: Taiwan in UN Protest
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Time: 11:00am - 2:00pm
Location: 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York City
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Grant said...

Great article Michael as usual.

Sad about Chen though. Well, what can you do?

Tim Maddog said...

The AFP "reconfiguration" still sucks (bold added):
- - -
Taiwan has been governed separately from China since 1949, but Beijing still considers the island as part of its territory and has vowed to take it back, by force if necessary.
- - -

Everything in there still implies that Taiwan was "part of China before 1949." Epic fail at simply telling the truth.

Tim Maddog

David Bell 貝大偉 said...

Hey Michael,

Very thorough post, thanks. I haven't been following the trial and don't know the ins and outs what so many see as rigging, but I have been rather confounded by my comletely unscientific, but all the same failed efforts to find much reporting on this outside of Taiwan. Jerome Cohen, who the AFP reporter quoted for his piece, was also used in an AP piece I see. Besides him, who else is sees major problems with this trial outside of Taiwan?

Anonymous said...

There is no legal ruling...only the subjectivities and whim of the judges.

Anonymous said...

Chen can now get political prisoner status.

readin said...

I have to admit I'm surprised at how quickly and audaciously the KMT has moved to both suppress dissent at home and surrender to China abroad. I naively figured that in a democratic system they would be forced to move slowly.

Wow, a live sentence. They really do believe they can get away with anything. Will the Taiwanese people prove them right?

notsure said...

I want to say one word to you, just one word ...

Chung Hsing Bills Finance Company.

Michael Turton said...

David, read the Taiwan News editorial in Update 2 and it might be clearer. Jerome Cohen is special, he was Ma's mentor in law school and is perhaps THE ranking expert on law in Chinese societies, AFAIK.

But there were four letters from scholars about it. When we meet face to face I'll tell some stuff I know about the media....

Jenna said...

Good post.

Brendan and I are betting that either a desperate Ma or some future desperate KMT hack will pardon him in an attempt to curry favor with the greens...or the next green president will do so.

While I do think he stole the money, I don't think life in prison is a fair sentence.

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Taiwan News reports that the Koos, to no one's surprise, get off pretty much scott free. Bribe friends of the president for NT90 million and you get three months.

"In the Nangang Exhibition Hall case, businessman Kuo Chuan-ching received three months in jail, reduced from six months, while his civil rights would be suspended for one year. Kuo allegedly handed over a total of NT$90 million in bribes to a friend of the former First Family in exchange for a list of jury members in charge of evaluating the construction project."

Diane Chen meanwhile gets a year for perjury.

The fate of Jeffrey Koo, who fled justice for two years:

"The court failed to demand action Friday against another member of the influential Koo family, former Chinatrust Financial Holding Vice Chairman Jeffrey Koo Junior, despite having paid Chen an estimated NT$290 million, reports said."

This is absolutely outrageous. Chen can't be guilty of accepting bribes if the people who admitted bribing him (and Koo did admit this on TV) are also not guilty.

I'm so sickened by this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Michael!

SY said...

1. I thought one has to be (or have been) in a public serving position in order to be charged and sentenced for "corruption". What public position did Ms. Wu Shu-jen hold? (Taiwan's system does not have a "first lady office".) Corrupction? Sentenced for life? This is extremely bizarre.

2. Regarding "island-wide protests that were the biggest in Taiwan’s history" (of FT), they happened in 1947.

This generation of Journalists is a shame to their profession. Doing research and proper investigation before an assignment is no longer an item in their toolbox, which now appears to contain only one item: hearsay (think the 2005 "dime-store" report of Keith Bradsher of the New York Times.) The derivative pyramid schemes/sport of the financial sector did not manage to get the world into today's economic mess without the assistance of those brainless "journalists".

Oddly enough, the (relatively speaking) most neutral and accurate in-depth news items about Taiwan that I have seen in the past 10 years were found in Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Christian Science Monitor. "Odd", because they are not the most famous, well-quoted (thus, resources-rich) media outlets and they wouldn't be the first in line to brag about a "liberal" stand. They have my respect though.

Anonymous said...

Who is Judge Tsai Shou-shun?

They removed the judge originally randomly assigned to judge Chen Shui-bian and assigned Tsai Shou-shun, the judge that judged Ma Ying-jeou to be completely innocent in his pocketing of public funds because Ma didn't have have the "intention" to break the law.

That's all anyone really needs to know about this case.

Anonymous said...

Holy...! Starting to hear some of the details of the judgment. One of the reasons given for Ma Yong-cheng given a 20 year sentence (note not for getting a single dollar, for illegal procedures), was that he was a graduate of National Taiwan University! This judge is off his rocker! This is going to be a field day. I just hope people don't get lost in the number of extraordinary craziness in there that the message gets lost.

readin said...

ug, I think I found an article worse than any you've mentioned. It's by Peter Enav of the AP. Most of it is ok, but the final sentence is, ''The question facing Taiwan now is whether Chen's pro-independence allies will capitalize on Ma's weakened position -- and on any wave of anger stemming from Chen's heavy sentence -- to sidetrack the new president's developing China policy.'' So the jackboot is stomping on the face and Enav thinks the only question is whether the DPP will try to affect ties with China, not whether anything will be done to restore democracy and rule of law????

Michael Turton said...

Readin -- it just seems like the media reflects the Establishment, and the Establishment wants Taiwan sold out ASAP.

Michael Turton said...

UDN is hilarious. You can't even take down a statue of CKS, a dictator who murdered thousands, but you can sentence a former president to life on zero evidence.

Michael Turton said...

SY you are right. But there does not seem to be any movement for change anywhere. Media is absolutely necessary, but it is so routinely awful. I wonder if, when print dies and stops constraining what goes on websites, whether it will improve....


Anonymous said...

''Readin -- it just seems like the media reflects the Establishment, and the Establishment wants Taiwan sold out ASAP.''

Interesting how this blog does not print my rebuttal to this. i am glad i am back in UK.

re the AFP article "But a thorough piece like this one by AFP in the international media is harder to discredit."

you guys are so paranoid? if AFP goes your way, you applaud, and when AFP goes another way, you cry foul. U cannot have it both ways, guys. AFP is not a robot. each story is written by an invividual reporter with his or her sources. You PHD people here give PHDs a bad name. Can't you read a newspaper without crying FOUL if it doesn't go your way? You sound like the dictators you say you hate yet you want to control the news too. Dummies all here! I am glad i left Asia 5 years ago to go back to sunny olde UK....

Michael Turton said...

... I am glad i left Asia 5 years ago to go back to sunny olde UK....

Believe me, we're glad too.

Michael Turton said...

Interesting how this blog does not print my rebuttal to this. i am glad i am back in UK.

You need to be patient. Unfortunately blogger takes time to put stuff through the system, it is often hours before I see comments. If you put stuff in three times it gets deleted. I also delete ravings, stupidity, and trolling, which means your stuff won't get through. I did let that comment through, because we need comic relief.