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Saturday, September 09, 2006


ESWN has a translated a hatchet job by respected Chinese blogger Michael Anti (zh) called A Million People Will Not Oust President Chen Shui.

Shi Ming-teh is an elder in the DPP and he is one of the eight gentlemen of Formosa magazine who caused the DPP to become a legitimate political party. He was put in jail by the KMT twice, serving a total of 25 years in jail. During the Formosa magazine trial, he went on a hunger strike regardless of the danger to his personal life and he touched the entire Taiwan society. As a result of his call, the one-million-person hundred-million-dollar campaign within a week carries a fundamental moral element. This is why ever since the case of Chao Chien-ming broke open, only the anti-Bian movement led by Shi Ming-teh was able to gain the support of more than 60% of the people. The phrase "Today, have you donated?" has become a fashionable phrase in Taiwan.

A minor translation problem starts things off. The 'Eight Gentlemen' refers to the eight leaders of the Dec. 10 1979 protest against the authoritarian KMT regime now known as the Kaohsiung Incident. Two of those leaders were in fact women--Vice President Annette Lu and the current DPP candidate for Mayor of Kaohsiung Chen Chu.

Anti conveniently neglects to mention that Shih's conviction for sedition in 1962 was for his involvement in the independence movement in which Shih was active for many years.

Anti's 60% support figure apparently comes from a poll conducted by the pro-China Chinese language China Times last week (the new figure this week is 68%). As most observers of Taiwanese politics well know, polls in Taiwan are used to shape public opinion, not reflect it. Factors such as the use of Mandarin in phone interviews, sampling problems, and biased questions means that these polls are generally wildly inaccurate. Poll numbers are also driven by saturation coverage in the electronic media but tend to ebb when viewers get bored. Shih's strategy is not to mobilize existing support
for his movement to oust Chen, but rather to create it by creating a spectacle of political confrontation on Taipei's streets.

I have hear a few people ask others if they've donated, but it is hardly a fashionable phrase in Taiwan outside of pan-blue circles perhaps.

[snip] But Shi Ming-teh is someone who gave up half his life for the DPP and it would be very difficult to smear him as "blue." Besides, this current campaign refuses the participation of any political party or social group. Therefore, the DPP can only resort to some low-down methods to smear Shi Ming-teh, such as his ex-wife coming out to accuse him of womanizing, or Yu Shyi-kun speaking about how political morality is just feudal thinking, or Wang Ben-hu saying that the NT$100 million was really money-laundering for the PFP/KMT, or Wang Shih-Cheng saying that he "wished Shi Ming-teh had been executed by Chiang Ching-kuo twenty six years ago." But these trash talking cannot lessen the immense impact on A-Bian and the DPP, for the various public opinion polls have put the support levels for Chen Shui-bian and the DPP at between 11% to 18%.

Linda Arrigo, Shih ex-wife, has published an open letter condemning Shih's attempts to revive his moribund political career and detailing his evolution from a political prisoner to a political hack financed by the KMT. While Arrigo does accuse Shih of womanizing, she does so in passing. Her main accusation against Shih is that he supports himself on generous handouts from the KMT. She has invited him to submit his own finances to the same scrutiny that Chen's have been submitted. Sadly, Arrigo is right. Shih, who began as a romantic revolutionary, is now largely a pathetic fop with delusions of grandeur.

First, if A-Bian quits, his entire family and assets will be seriously threatened. A-Bian, his wife, his son-in-law and his trusted aides will go to jail. Even though his successor may give him a personal amnesty, he cannot avert the destruction of his family. The historian Tang Degang insightfully pointed out that the crisis in transfer of power by Chinese rulers is the reason why China was stuck in a historical bind. Therefore, A-Bian must defend his power until 2008 and then the DPP must continue to hold onto power in order that he can save his whole family. Under this threat against existence, how can A-Bian possibly care about political morality or leaving a good name in history? Therefore, no matter how many people show up in the streets, he will not think about quitting.

Anti is now really devolving into fact-free speculation. Chen's son-in-law Chao Chien-ming has been indicted on insider trading charges. While there is a strong whiff of impropriety surroundiing the Chao case, insider trading is hard to prove and many legal experts in Taiwan believe that the prosecution does not have a strong case since the only evidence they have against Chao is tainted testimony by a witness who received a plea bargain in return for testifying. Even if Chao is convicted, his trial and appeals will take years. And Chen has said himself that Chao should go to jail if he is guilty. He's hardly hanging onto the presidency to save his jack ass of a son in law.

Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen has been the subject of a long, convoluted, and thus far extremely flimsy investigation that has yet to produce an indictment. Neither of Chen's children are under of investigation, nor is his elderly mother. Only one member of his family is in any danger of going to jail, and whether he does or not, will depend on the courts, not A-bian's political fate. Essentially Anti is projecting what would happen in China onto to democratic Taiwan.

Next, on account of Lee Teng-hui, the design of the Taiwan political system was changed from the original "cabinet system" to the current "presidential system" in which the President has legal immunity and his position cannot be moved by any judgment. There are only two ways to oust him: the recall or the no-confidence vote. The recall requires two-thirds of the legislature and that is basically impossible. The no-confidence vote takes a long time and it will still be impossible if a 2/3 majority cannot be attained to dismiss the Legislature. Under this system, therefore, A-Bian does not have to worry about any opposition force.

By 'judgment', Anti means conviction by a court. As in many countries including the US and the UK, the framers of Taiwan's current constitution have made the conviction of a president a fundamentally political process. The KMT and PFP failed to recall Chen in June. They can now pass a vote of no confidence against the cabinet that would give the president the option of dissolving the legislature and forcing new elections. Chen has said that is precisely what he would do. The problem is not that it would take too much time, but rather that the opposition parties lack the political courage to see if the people really want Chen removed from office. It is not impossible to remove the sitting president by constitutional means under the current system; it's just difficult. As it should be.


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