Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ma gets four months

At the hospital, there is a button for hot water and two buttons for warm. Because cold water is bad for you....

Former Taiwan Special Administrative Region Chief Adminstrator President Ma Ying-jeou was finally sentenced today for four months in prison. Bloomberg:
Taiwan’s High Court on Tuesday found Ma, 67, guilty of violating the Communication Security and Surveillance Act, according to Lin Ruey-bin, high court division chief judge. Ma had been found not guilty of the charges by a Taipei district court last year, a verdict prosecutors appealed. Ma said he would appeal Tuesday’s decision in a statement released by his office after the verdict.

Ma could also avoid time in jail by paying a NT$120,000 ($4,000) fine, pending approval from prosecutors.
Note that Ma can easily avoid jail time. Fines are there so people with money can avoid the plebian indignity of jail. However, I expect Ma to win on appeal -- he is the System's fair-haired boy, after all.

This mess stemmed from Ma's decision to leak information from an ongoing case to use against KMT heavyweight and political rival Wang Jin-pying (my old post on the political effects and on the leak). The prosecutor in that case was later indicted and convicted for leaking the information from the wiretap to Ma.

There's some talk that this is a political prosecution and its bad for democracy. Neither of these is true. I addressed this ages ago in a Taiwan News commentary when the case first broke last year. It's worth reposting excerpts here:

Is this indictment some kind of pan-Green revenge? Hardly. This case began in September of 2013. By December of that SID Chief Huang was indicted for his role in the case. For the last few years knowledgeable observers have speculated that Ma sooner or later would come under prosecutorial scrutiny for making the wiretaps public. Moreover, SID Chief Huang was investigated, indicted, and convicted when the Administration was Blue. This case did not suddenly appear under the Tsai Administration.

Moreover, no cascade of indictments has come down on the KMT in connection with this or any other case to match that of the KMT against the DPP. The focus on Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui blinds observers to the all-important context: the opening year of the first Ma Administration saw indictments against an array of pan-Green politicians, including Annette Lu, Su Chih-fen, Ma Yung-cheng, and Yu Cheng-hsien, and in consecutive days in October of 2008, James Lee, Chen Ming-wen, Wang Ting-yu, and Chiou I-jen. Presidents Chen and Lee were merely the most notable victims.

There is no comparable context here. If there were, Sean Lien, Lien Chan, Alex Tsai, Eric Chu, Jason Hsu, Hung Hsiu-chu, and Wu Po-hsiung would all be under indictment, with indictments expected against more individual KMT politicians momentarily.

Another missing context is authoritarianism: it was always KMT policy during the Party-State era to indict DPP and tangwai politicians routinely, to intimidate and control them. Even today a few DPP politicians have outstanding but dormant indictments against them. Neither of the DPP administrations carried out a similar program of anti-democratic attacks on the opposition party.


and of course...


The Ma indictment is thus a step forward for Taiwan's democracy: an indictment of a previous president for a specific action, not merely for existing in opposition to the ruling party as were the previous cases. It represents prosecutors acting in a constitutionally and politically appropriate manner to check the Executive's apparent misuse of power. That is something to celebrate, not condemn.

Sadly, we can expect the international media to either misunderstand or ignore all this context, because pious worries about "democracy" make better copy than efforts to convey the complexities of the case to global and local audiences. Thus, an important opportunity to explain and to validate Taiwan's democracy for audiences within and without Taiwan will be lost in what is essentially an exercise of cynicism presented as wisdom. Much of this discourse is driven by, at least to this writer's eye, a western cultural chauvinism that tacitly treats non-western democracies as always more fragile and inferior.

ADDED: Use brain please, folks. If this is a political prosecution, why is Ma able to avoid jail with a tiny fine?

This occurred because Ma publicly and spectacularly broke the law. He knew what he was doing, and gave the prosecutors no choice.

Had no prosecution occurred, that would have been obviously political, and the judicial authorities would have met with much criticism, especially since someone else had already been convicted in the case.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How did a fraud like Ralph Jennings end up as a correspondent for Taiwan??? When I find out he's the guest on Taiwan This Week I turn it off.