Saturday, April 30, 2011

Su Chih-fen found innocent; Chen Acquitted in Final Appeal

A temple god watches over the onion fields of Kenting.

Lots of good news out of the court system this week. First, Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen, one of the DPPers swept up in the wave of political prosecutions during the waning months of 2008, was found innocent of accepting a bribe:
Su had faced charges of accepting NT$5 million (US$174,845) in bribes to speed up approval of a landfill in the county by skipping an environmental assessment. Prosecutors had argued for a 15-year sentence and an eight-year suspension of civil rights.

“There’s nothing happy about this ruling today. I have been innocent from the start in this case,” Su somberly told hundreds of supporters after the verdict was announced. “I have never accepted even one dollar in bribes.”

Suggesting that the decision relied on testimony from a key witness, Su said that she would like to thank a special person that “stood as firm as a mountain.”

“There are many things that I will not be able to disclose publicly, but I would like to especially thank a special friend,” Su said. “I especially express gratitude to you and am especially thankful for you.”

The ruling was keenly watched after Su and other DPP politicians said that prosecutors were on a “political witch hunt” to find misconduct connected to the Yunlin County commissioner.
The arrest of Su, who had a reputation for integrity, was especially outrageous and one was of a series of events that prompted the first Open Letter from Scholars on the situation in Taiwan. Jon Adams had a good article on the arrests at the time.

(Parenthetically, the KMT's recent obsession with Nat Bellocchi, whose name appeared first on the list of signatories of the most recent letter, took another twist this week with a hit piece from a KMTer who is a retired envoy to Washington. As I noted when the first KMT attacks came out, Bellocchi's name is first on the list not because he is the sinister leader of events but because the list is in alphabetical order. D'oh! And if you examine that list in the first letter, his name is there first as well. D'oh! One could do a PhD thesis on what this reveals about KMT attitudes toward the US.)

At the same time Chen Shui-bian was found not guilty of embezzling $330,000 from the special diplomatic funds in the third and final appeal. Prosecutors went 0-3 on that one. The first time he lost they claimed an acquittal was "against the public's conception of the law." This has been a consistent KMT strategy -- try the cases in the media, then claim that the DPPers lost there to put pressure on judges, then when the judiciary acquits, claim that the courts have disappointed the public. As I noted way back when:
But let's recall -- how was public opinion in this case even constructed? Oh yeah -- the infamous skit that showed Chen Shui-bian as an AIDS victim. Remember that? The Ministry said it was OK because it reflected the sentiment on the island. And then there were the leaks about the case from the prosecutors, which caused the local judicial reform foundation to slam the prosecutors back in Dec of 2008. And remember when 8 prosecutors called a press conference to announce that they would pursue the Chen case to get a conviction right to the bitter end, which I said at the time was basically an admission that they had no evidence? Then there was the flow of new charges... This constant churning of the media by the prosecutors, as well as the baying for Chen's blood in the pro-KMT press, has of course had a profound effect on public opinion. "Trial by media," the South China Morning Post, no friend of the DPP, called it. But the prosecutors citing public opinion in their appeal, the public opinion that they themselves helped nurture through their own questionable actions, is surely a new low.
The second act of this trial-by-media approach is to use the attacks on DPPers to whip up votes for the KMT.

Remember what the judge said about the diplomatic affairs case? Just in case you've forgotten, let's refresh your memory:
Chen was indicted Sept. 22, 2009 for withholding US$30,000 from a sum of US$100,000 given to him by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for discretionary spending during each of his 11 overseas trips as president between August 2000 and September 2006.

The prosecutors charged in the indictment that Chen wired the funds -- a total of US$330,000 -- to his son Chen Chih-chung, who was studying in the United States at the time.

But the judges dismissed the indictment as "a shoddy mishmash of evidence without a morsel of credibility."

They said the prosecutors contradicted themselves by claiming in their indictment that the spending of the allowances was "totally under the control of the Foreign Ministry and the president had no say in the matter, " but in the same breath, the indictment said that "the allowances were meant to finance the president's unexpected spending on state affairs."

The judges also criticized the prosecutors for using the testimony of Wu Wang-hsia, mother of ex-first lady Wu Shu-jen, against her daughter, despite being fully aware that Wu Wang-hsia was not of sound mind and actually misidentified her son as her husband occasionally in her deposition.

Furthermore, the judges said, there were long gaps between the times Chen Shui-bian wired funds to Chen Chih-chung and the times he allegedly embezzled the diplomatic funds, making the prosecutors' claims allegedly embezzled the diplomatic funds, making the prosecutors' claims that the ex-president used the diplomatic funds to finance his son's studies
This means that, in addition to a couple of cases still pending, Chen is in jail for two things -- accepting a bribe from Diana Chen case (see this post) and the Koo family land case bribe. The Koos were in court last week in connection with a different case when this came out.
Don't read Chinese? It says that a $300 million NT bribe that was allegedly given to the Chen Shui-bian family never went to them. Read the first page of this Commonwealth article to get a feel for the claim(s). Testimony in the Chen case was also collected from  Jeffrey Koo, another Koo family scion, who was on the run from authorities, came back to Taiwan to "testify" in connection with the alleged bribe and was interrogated for two hours but notes only covered a half-hour, and then sent out of the country again. No deal was made, claimed prosecutors. Chen case coverage here.

David on Formosa offered an excellent post on the Su Chih-fen case with a statement from DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen:
Tsai Ing-wen posted the following comment on her Facebook page regarding the verdict in Su's case. My translation in English follows.
[This afternoon Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen was found not guilty in the first hearing. During the period of waiting for the verdict I believe that the people of Yunlin County have always kept their trust in the ability and personal integrity of Su just like I have. The justice system has returned Su's state of innocence. It has also given the people of Yunlin County a sense of justice. Everybody can have a sense of feeling gratified.
At the same time, the prosecutors have easily politicised cases, indiscriminately filed charges and excessively used pre-trial detention. The situation of judicial rights is serious and infringes on everyone. It has reached the point where there is no choice but to make the promotion of a comprehensive review and reform of the justice system a key focus in the future.]
I was disappointed by Tsai's weak response to my question about the death penalty at the meeting last Saturday. However, her comments about judicial reform in response to another question were much more impressive. I think these comments show that Tsai realises judicial reform is a task of the utmost importance if she is elected to the presidency. However, despite her legal background this is a task that Tsai cannot complete on her own. She needs strong support from the legal community and all those who support human rights and justice in Taiwan.
In related news, the Taipei Times had another editorial on the revolting saga of the Hsichih trio.
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! Delenda est, baby.


Anonymous said...

Both Su and Chen

How could this happen when Ma and KMT controls the courts?

Michael Turton said...

How could this happen when Ma and KMT controls the courts?

The answer is obvious, anon.

Anonymous said...

anon, it means the ma administration don't interfere with taiwan's courts and guarantees
fair play. get it?

you're probably seeing too much ftv !


Herman said...

The case may very well show that the KMT prosecutor(s) in this case were incompetent, that they bungled the case, that KMT in fact is an awful, awful party with lots of awful awful members. But is it, really?

1) do you think that because the prosecutor(s) were KMT, therefore KMT itself is in the wrong? or that Ma is the head of KMT, therefore Ma is in the wrong as well? How about this line of logic: because George W. Bush is an American, therefore all Americans are in the wrong about what happened in Iraq? Let the prosecutors' errors be their own. But be cautious when you want to drag others in KMT into this because they may not be in league with these prosecutors on this matter.

2) I don't know the case other than what I read here or there. I'd hesitate to draw conclusion based on a few reading on blogs and newspapers. But I'd reason it this way. Let's say Chen is innocent of this charge, and innocent of that charge, all coming from KMT. Let's say he is innocent to all charges. But what about those Swiss bank accounts where there were millions and millions of USD under his family's name? Were those rumors or facts? How about the outburst of Chen's daughter, the one whose husband was a Taiwan University Hospital doctor. I recall seeing a clip of TV news or newspaper (OK I eat my foot here)that Chen's daughter said to the DPP high officials during the days when charges against Chen began to surface. The daughter exclaimed: "which one of you (DPP high officials) did not take/accept money from my father?!".

When I saw the news of the Swiss bank accounts and Chen's daughter's outburst, my impression of Chen is pretty much ingrained. It will take a case of disproving the Swiss bank accounts and that statement of his daughter's to change my mind about Chen's innocence. That he is innocent of playing money and politics.

3) I like Ma. You and other readers may every well be correct in pointing out his faults and shortcomings. But despite all that, what I like about him is A) he is trying to make peace with China. B) he is trying to curb corruptions in KMT. I don't see Ma as trying to sell Taiwan out to China. He's already the President. If that's what he wants, can't he just make some declarations and be done with it? What's stopping him? No, he is not selling Taiwan out. Keep in mind that KMT and Chinese communist party were at war. Ma is altering that course, and steer it in the direction of avoiding war with CCP altogether. You may consider having Taiwan becoming independent as the solution. That's one way to chart the course. But that doesn't invalidate Ma's plan and call him a sell-out. Consider what Yitzhak Rabin tried to do with Arafat and what he said about what making peace is. "If you are not making peace with your enemy, who are you making peace with?" As for having Taiwan becoming independent, I'm for it, except that there's a little problem that hasn't been worked out yet. And that problem is demonstrated aplenty in history. Read American civil war. Read chechnya vs. Russia. or Ingushetia vs. Russia. So, until enough people have worked out a way to make independence without war a possibility, then my position is to not rush. Because war could make everything worse, everything. The U.S. was lucky that George Washington decided not to be an emperor after the independence war. China wasn't so lucky that Mao didn't want to give up his supreme power after the Chinese Civil War. He and CCP made China become independent of foreign powers that included US. Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Spain for many years. But alas, he kneeled to Soviet and gave China the communist economy for a long time. So, independence. When you have it, it may not be what you think it is.

Anonymous said...

Oh Herman...

If you really believe Ma is working hard to clean up corruption based on what the government has been cranking out, you have a lot to learn about Taiwan.

One of Ma's largest constituencies is organized crime. Ma can not function without their support and they pretty much own the KMT. It is organized crime and their grey area businesses that have been thriving under Ma. These are the characters that own real estate and construction companies (and have insider information on zoning for land speculation), they own tourism, hotels and entertainment hubs, they have long established relationships with other organized crime conglomerates in China and will be the largest beneficiaries from Ma's policies. This is why Yen Ching-biao was put in charge of rallying Taiwanese to support ECFA. Ma can not do a thing about real corruption, he can only send prosecutors after DPP windmills to achieve short term political advantage in sewing cynicism within unaffiliated Taiwanese voters with the aim of beating back their democratic idealism and making the idea of a more authoritarian system more appealing.


David on Formosa said...

Michael, Thanks for mentioning my post. You have filled in a lot more details here.

Herman said...


"One of Ma's largest constituencies is organized crime." Yes! Glad you bring that up.

"Foolish!" No. I'm not glad you bring that up. Isn't that the kind of language what Obama calls "distraction", and what the Chinese daily newspapers term "saliva fight?" Do you like to see political discourses posted here in Michael T.'s blog to come to that level of intelligence? I would hesitate to use such language without hearing fully what the others have to say first.

If, for example, you end your presentation that Ma's administration is owned by organized crime by stating "now what do you have to say to that?" I would not only have seen the very excellent points of yours, but also the fine manner in which you deliver it. Wouldn't that score more points for you? Or maybe manner is not a particular concern for you? Or maybe you have suffered so much grievances personally from KMT that you're showing how you feel? If that's the case, I'm sorry about your suffering. I too a long time ago had many bad dreams of the political atmosphere of KMT when I lived in Taiwan, for 16 years, under Chiang Kai-Shek's rule.

But I want to respond to this: "One of Ma's largest constituencies is organized crime."

Let's say that's true. That KMT is largely influenced by organized crime. (I have no way of knowing, but I guess you may be right) It makes a big difference to me whether Ma invited those gangsters in, or he built them up in the government, or whether the gangster were already there in KMT before Ma came to power. My take is the last one. That he knew the bad elements in KMT already before he ran for office, with the intention to taking a shot at reforming KMT to a better party. I may very well be wrong about this because I'm guessing.

You want Taiwan to have a better government than the present one. I too would like to see a better Taiwan. And I can see KMT got lots of problems. The question was "Is Ma trying to curb corruption of KMT?" I guess you mean that if Ma is really trying to curb corruption, he would have done something about the organized crime in KMT, get rid of it, clean it up, for example. Since organized crime is running KMT, therefore Ma is not curbing corruption. That's your logic? Yes? It sounds very reasonable. Except that to me that it's possible that Ma is trying, yet the organized crime is still dominating KMT. Here is a flash point: I don't think ANYBODY in human history has figured out yet how to solve the organized crime problem because there's just never were enough people to put in the sweat and brain juices to study this problem. Ah, if only Ph.D. candidates of Political Sciences would make thesis on this topic. But that's a risky proposition. It's a tough nut to crack. But hey, if you can crack it, maybe a lifetime of fame and glory.

Herman said...

There are two approaches to change a corrupt government. One is a "regime change", or maybe it's called reform, or maybe democratic election. The idea of this approach is this: you guys in government stink. I know people who are smarter, who can do better, who will do better than you. We switch seats. You get out. We come in. And the new government will be better because we are younger, smarter, better, and willing. The second one is, for lack of a better term, "due process", or maybe it's called "business as usual." The idea of this approach is this: you guys in government stink. But I need some power base before I can do anything about it. So I join you in the government, then I work my way around in the government, by charm, by appeal, by wine and dine, by wheeling and dealing, by power squeeze, by SOMETHING and somehow somehow maybe some good comes out of it. After a while I kind of lost my way. But I'm trying...

You may sneer at the second approach. But if I call it democracy, will you take a close look and tell me if I'm off the mark? If I call the first one revolution, will you find that off the mark?

If you like the first approach, as I'm sure those who support Tsai and DPP are, I'd like to say that 1) I like some of the people in DPP and I don't like some of the people in KMT. But although I like them, I'm afraid that they didn't see enough history to know what's in store for them. and 2) if and when DPP do win the office and become the government, they will follow the footsteps of other groups in history who tried to reform government before. The human history shows that the outcome for a reform party has 3 paths: 1) the party they reform against will re-group and overthrow them later (American example: Democratic Party vs. Republican Party, Chinese example: the Boxer Rebellion prompted Late Ching dynasty's Kwang Hsu Emperor to try Hundred Day's Reform, the Empress Dowager (Tz'u-Hsi T'ai-hou) had the reformists executed soon after. 2) the reformists become dictators: Mao in China is an example. Or put it another way. Most dictators were reformists before they become dictators. Reason: Once the reformists got the power and hunker down to the business of actual reform, they found out that to make changes to those matters that they had pointed out to be wrong in the other party were actually WAY HARDER than they had actually understood (example: armchair quarterbacks who put on uniforms themselves). Now in order to stick to the bitter end to make the reformation work, the reformists are left with no choice but to demand more power, more cooperation from everybody else as they keep at it. (example: Mao, who successfully reformed corruption in China for a number of years, as he eliminated his comrades one after another, to make money- and social class-corruptions go away. Well, we can all see that corruptions in China have rebounded and doubled in fury, but that's for another conversation. Just a quickie. It's very comparable to the phenomenon of a yo-yo diet).

Herman said...

and 3) the reformists become like the party they tried to reform against. i.e. the DPP in power will become like the KMT, sooner or later. Oh they talk about different things and stand for different principles. But you kind of notice that they act very much the same, after awhile. Reason: after they reform for a while and found little or no progress, they took a break and looked around to see what were the problems and how to work around those problems that blocked their progress. That's when they notice that Ah, deja vu, we are in about the same position as our incompetent predecessors whom we had sent packing not long ago. So nobody really knows how to work out changes IN A POLITICAL WAY. So the incompetent predecessors too were reformists once.They were unsuccessful to reach the goal of their reform and now we follow their footsteps and are unsuccessful in our goal, despite our promises and vows. That KMT once were trying to reform the corruptions of the late Ching dynasty. As DPP wants to reform the corrupt "KMT dynasty". Hey, history repeats. Who's next? The Who has a song called "We don't get fooled again" It goes " Meet the new Boss, Same as the old Boss."

So are we in a rut? Well, a glass can be called half empty or half full. And how you look at it makes a big difference. The nuts are tough to crack. Sure. Bu it also means for those who want to study and crack this nut, to shed light on the history and ACTUAL causes of corruption, then they may be amply rewarded and we can all benefit. To conclude: I advocate not rushing in headlong to solve some political problems unless it's life-threatening, but to understand the problems and share that understanding with each other, until there's a common agreement among all of us on what the problem really is. Calling corruption a corruption doesn't mean any of us really knows what corruption is. Because a political solution can work sustainably only when a "real" (I don't know how to define it) majority all agree on the problem, methods, and resources and efforts needed to work out that solution. The reason why no one knows how to work out a political solution yet is because under a democratic system nobody has figured out how to make the majority to agree on what the problem really is to begin with. If you can't get a majority to agree on the problem, how likely can you get the majority to agree on the solution? So if you don't agree with my assessment. Hey, case closed. I rest my big mouth.

Herman said...

P.S. I kind of forgot mentioning one thing: why I think Ma is trying to curb corruption. (foot in my mouth) I saw in a news clip that Ma ordered the lunch for all of his cabinet meetings to be Bento, instead of fancy multi-course meal catered by 5-star restaurant. Now for a Chinese, a President no less, to practice frugalness to eat simple meal, when abundant choices are ready and willing to satisify his whims. That kind of personality will have a hard time tolerate waste, and by extension, corruption, if he can help it.

Another thing. Can a man try to curb corruption, yet work with corrupt members in his party at the same time? Yes he can. Example is Dr. Sun Yet-san, the founding father of Republic China, whose pictures are hung in both KMT Taiwan and CPP China. Dr. Sun's mission was to overthrow Ching dynasty and build a new republic in China. So he went raising money many times for that cause and give money to 'comrades'. People tell Dr. Sun that most of those "comrades" were scoundrels, that they never used the money to organize uprising against Ching dynasty, but to enjoy themselves with wine, women or whatnot. Dr. Sun replied, "Yes, I know. But if these people SAY they were using the money for revolution, then sooner or later they will believe it themselves and actually do it." Was that actually what happened to those 'comrades'? I don't know. I only know the revolution did succeed in overthrowing Ching dynasty after 10 uprisings, with some awful consequences and some good benefits. So the pattern is that you can revolt against a larger group of corrupt people with another, smaller, group of people who have their own style of corruption. As long as the objective is the first group, you can work with the second group. As for rooting out corruption altogether, I don't know. Didn't Jesus tried to reform the corruption of human soul? Did he succeed?