Debate on erosion of justice in Taiwan continues
Michael Danielsen, chairman of Denmark's Taiwan Corner and one of the signatories of the Open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou last November, rebuts Government Information Office Minister Su Jun-pin's (蘇俊賓) response to Richard Kagan last month with a piece in today's Taipei Times titled "Democratic liberty is fundamental."
Here are some excerpts from Danielsen's piece:
[Su] states that the government will give "due attention to possible flaws in our judicial system" and continued by stating that it will "keep pushing forward on these fronts."Notice how Su doesn't admit to any "actual" flaws -- only "possible" ones -- and that his use of the phrase "keep pushing forward" implies that his government is already making improvements on the judicial system in Taiwan. Anyone who has paid any amount of attention to this administration will know that it is not so. Danielsen implies as much by saying that he'd like to see "actual steps" as opposed to "mere words." As usual, the retorts make much more sense than the responses from the Ma government have. Look at the reality, test the logic, and you'll see.
I look forward to actual steps that go beyond mere words. [...]
In its report, Freedom House refers to violations of the rights of defendants in criminal cases and other new restrictions on freedom of expression and news freedom. In addition, Jerome Cohen [Maddog note: Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) Harvard professor] and Chen Yu-jie (陳玉潔) stated in the South China Morning Post on Jan. 20 that now "it [the government] is trying to introduce legislation to punish 'obstructions of justice' that will inevitably restrict defense lawyers' activities." [Maddog note: Cohen and Chen's unedited original letter; The edited version which appeared in the SCMP (PDF); Hanzi version which appeared in the Taiwan-based China Times (中國時報)]
Thus, using history over the last two decades to showcase Taiwan's democratic development is deceptive.
Su seems to have a different understanding of democratic involvement than others. Based on his words, cross-strait relations are only important to the legislature if they are related to law, and the public should only have involvement between elections via the media. However, the agreements involving China and Taiwan deal with the key issue of Taiwan's future and its existence as a free and democratic nation, and for that reason the agreements are always important to the legislature and the public because of tensions with China and that country's obvious threats to Taiwan.
UPDATE: Taipei Times editor J. Michael Cole writes on his blog how the Presidential Office snubbed the foreign media on ECFA briefings -- not a good indication of anything "improving" under Ma Ying-jeou:
The Taiwan Foreign Correspondent's Club (TFCC) yesterday lodged a protest with the Presidential Office after being informed that foreign reporters would not be allowed to attend Ma's briefing. The directive is expected to apply to all subsequent monthly briefings. The TFCC was told that foreign correspondents would be able to watch in real time from the Presidential Office press room.How "transparent" is that? [/update]
I communicated this with Reporters Without Borders Asia, which responded by calling it a "disturbing development."
Here are the 12 previous episodes of this long-running series, listed below in chronological order:
* November 6, 2008: Scholars and writers from around the world publish an "Open letter on erosion of justice in Taiwan." The same letter -- as an online petition -- has been signed by more than 2,000 people.How long will this go on? Until the people of Taiwan kick the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) out for good -- that's how long!
* November 25, 2008: Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) calls the open letter "inaccurate."
* December 2, 2008: "Eroding justice: Open letter No. 2" counters Wang Ching-feng's claims.
* January 8, 2009: Over a month later, Wang Ching-feng comes up with "clarif[ications]" regarding the open-letter writers' so-called "misunderstandings."
* January 21, 2009: "Eroding justice: Open letter No. 3" is addressed to President Ma Ying-jeou.
* January 24, 2009: Two more "US-based Taiwan experts add [their] names to open letter [No. 3]."
* January 25, 2009: President Ma claims the public had gained confidence in the judiciary in 2008 -- the exact opposite of what this Taiwan News article tells us they actually felt:According to recent surveys conducted by Academia Sinica and the Web site Yahoo! Kimo, over 50 percent of the people do not believe in Taiwan's judicial system and over 75 percent have no confidence that the Judicial Yuan will undertake judicial reform [...]* May 22, 2009: An estimable group of scholars and writers -- 26 in all, and each one with a deep understanding of Taiwan and the surrounding facts -- has composed an open letter addressed directly to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). The letter addresses the ever-increasing problems with judicial fairness, press freedom, the lack of transparency in the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) rapprochement with China, the loss of Taiwan's sovereignty, and the loss of human rights. The argument the letter makes is rock solid. It is based on demonstrable facts.
* November 9, 2009: Then there were 31. The Taiwan News publishes an "Open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou by 30 international scholars" which reminds us that "a decrease of tension across the Taiwan Strait would indeed be welcome, but [...] that this should not be done at the expense of the hard-won democracy" and that "Taiwan should be more fully accepted by the international community as a full and equal partner." (Here's a version with 31 names on the web site of one of the signatories, Jerome F. Keating, Ph.D.)
* December 13, 2009: Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) submits the "GIO response to Nov.  open letter" to the Taipei Times.
* December 25, 2009: Richard Kagan, professor emeritus at Hamline University in St Paul, Minnesota and one of the signatories of the November 2009 letter, replies to Su Jun-pin's silliness in "GIO's response misses the point"
* January 8, 2009: Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) churns out A GIO response to Richard Kagan (one of the signatories of the November 9, 2009 "Open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou by 30 international scholars") in which Su compares apples and oranges by imagining that other people don't know that China wants to annex Taiwan while the Taiwanese people don't want to be part of China, ignores what has happened to Hong Kong in the past 12 and a half years, talks about the "double-taxation" issue as if China won't still get those taxes from Taiwanese businesses, pretends to forget that Taiwan's Straits [sic] Exchange Foundation (海峽交流基金會) chairman and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice-chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) referred to himself as a "rubber stamp," complains that his government has no control over anything, ignores the KMT's continued attempts to take over Taiwan's Public TV (PTS, 公共電視), confuses gains in local elections with a balanced legislature and a president who listens to majority opinion without oppressing minorities or stupidly saying out loud that he "sees them as humans," and completely omits the fact that the talks regarding an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) -- which Chinese officials say "will certainly bring about complete unification of the motherland [sic] -- have been anything but transparent and have not been subject to legislative oversight. These things, Mr. Su, are clear signs of an erosion of both justice and democracy.
Cast of characters: Taiwan, 台灣, erosion of justice, 侵蝕司法, Su Jun-pin, 蘇俊賓, Michael Danielsen, 麥可丹尼爾森
Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!