Friday, September 18, 2009

Chen Verdict: Still More!

First, Saturday the 19th (tomorrow) there is a protest march that is going from the main gate of Taida to the Memorial Hall with Two Names, starting at 3 pm.

Lots and lots of things happening this week, and plenty of commentary on the Chen trial and verdict. The Economist, whose failures on Morakot/Dalai Lama were revolting, put out a much better piece on the Chen Verdict this week:
Mr Chen’s supporters, pointing to his life sentence, and to the 20- and 16-year sentences meted out respectively to two of his aides, claim a political vendetta by the KMT, orchestrated by Mr Ma. That would hardly be in keeping with the clean-guy image of Mr Ma, a Harvard-trained lawyer. It would also throw into question how far Taiwan has really come as a law-based democracy. But it is more plausible to blame the trial’s flaws on a legal system that has only imperfectly made the leap from being venal and biddable under dictatorship towards judicial independence and due process. Six years ago Taiwan’s judge-prosecutors were replaced by a system in which impartial judges are meant to hear out the case for the prosecution and the defence. Mr Tsai’s open hostility to Mr Chen during the trial suggests some old-school attitudes are hard to shake off.

What is more, prosecutors’ immense powers, including the practice of interrogating an individual without letting him know what he is said to have done, remain a blot on democracy. Shameful too was the skit performed at the prosecutors’ annual dinner in which mockery was made of Mr Chen famously protesting at the humiliation of having to wear handcuffs. No rebuke came from the government. Now the justice ministry threatens to disbar Mr Chen’s lawyer, Cheng Wen-lung, for questioning the fairness of the judicial process. That smacks, says Jerome Cohen, Mr Ma’s former law professor, now at New York University, of the persecution of human-rights lawyers in China.

What conclusions you draw about the future rule of law in Taiwan depend on whether you believe Mr Chen’ s trial was politically motivated or not. If not—and the investigation of Mr Chen, after all, began when he was still president—then the trial of a former president is surely a landmark. What is more, the legal system is responding to the trial’s shortcomings. For instance, thanks to a challenge by Mr Chen, the prosecutors’ insistence that they attend and record meetings between defendants and their counsel has now been ruled unconstitutional.
...of course, the government has been rather dilatory in actually carrying that out, as visitors to Chen in jail have observed.

Jerome Cohen had a widely circulated piece in the South China Morning Post, which hilariously insisted that the Chen trial was not a political vendetta, but then listed many of the more bizarre events. Read on:
The case against Chen and many family members and associates is a landmark for many reasons. It is a major blow against the massive corruption and secret political donations that have plagued Taiwan's vibrant young democracy.

It is not a political vendetta by the newly installed government of President Ma Ying-jeou against the defeated opposition but a monumental demonstration that no one is above the law - not even a president.
A "major blow against the massive corruption and secret political donations?" Reading that, one feels like Mozart in Amadeus....
One hears such sounds...
...and what can one say but...
...sad that, in the end, Cohen could not read the trial in any other way but the one the KMT wanted it read. Everyone will go home, interest will fade, and the construction-industrial state will continue to water the patronage networks that keep the Blues in power, and the "massive blow against corruption" will have precisely zero effect on anything except the DPP's electoral chances.
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Readin said...

"Buffed thief pinned by 12 students"

Lucky thing the guy didn't have a knife or gun.

SY said...

The Economist wrote: "Mr Ma, a Harvard-trained lawyer"

No, Ma has never passed any bar exam to be qualified as a lawyer; neither in Taiwan nor in the US.

While mainstream media always auto-pilotedly attribute "Harvard-traied" + "lawyer" to Ma without contextual necessity, they never ever thought of attributing something like "NTU-trained" + "lawyer" to Chen Shui-Bian. What gives?

PS: The Economist may have been fooled by Ma's biography. which includes made-up stories about his "law practicing experiences in the US". For instance, he continues to claim to have worked as an "associate" at Cole & Deitz (New York City) in 1981 while in fact he did a summer intern there.

Ma has been busted on those claims, but he continues with the wrongful claims anyway. His claim actually is a criminal offence in the US and can be legally damning to Cole & Deitz.

If you can read Chinese and are interested in knowing about how Ma has tried many times to pretend or imply to have law practicing experiences in the US (he never passed Taiwan's bar exam, this is well known in Taiwan), see this article:

Timmy Madcat said...

@SY - Probably because no one outside of Taiwan has heard of NTU.

Don't forget that to a lot of people in TW, starting a course of study in something is enough to say you're qualified. I've met a few people who've had promotions based on their Masters degree (for example) who merely signed up for the course and dropped out a month later. They are often still considered Masters. Claiming Ma to be a Harvard-educated lawyer is true in this context.

Anonymous said...


Harvard trained is a device used to make Ma appear to be "similar to us" to "Westerners". It invokes a false familiarity on the pretense that somehow, due to his Harvard training, he shares similar values and therefore he is a known quantity... unlike that "crazy Chen shui bian". The Harvard training gives the impression to many that Ma will act in the interests of "the West" as if he is owned.

SY said...

Anom@8:38AM wrote: "The Harvard training gives the impression to many that Ma will act in the interests of "the West" as if he is owned."

That "makes sense".

Well then, when Michael gets his degree in Taiwan, he will be considered "disowned".

Anonymous said...

Michael was "disowned" a long time ago. ;-)

Luckily he was taken in by a band of feral Formosan macaques and localized.

Anonymous said...


I want to buy you a beer.