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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

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Ma Ying-jeou government under fire again

As time moves forward, Ma's administration moves backward

A group of 39 observers of Taiwanese politics from around the world -- many of whom were part of an earlier series of open letters on the erosion of justice in Taiwan under the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) government -- is in the news yet again. This time, they're focusing on the indictment against former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

Here's some of the main content [highlights mine]:
Dear President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九),

We the undersigned, international academics, analysts and writers from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, have for many years been keen observers of political developments in Taiwan. We were delighted when Taiwan made its transition to democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and we continue to care deeply for the country and its future as a free and democratic nation-state.

However, during the past three years, many of us have felt it necessary to address publicly our concerns to you about the erosion of justice and democracy in Taiwan, most recently in April this year regarding the charges of the "36,000 missing documents" against a number of prominent former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials. We raised these issues as international supporters of Taiwan's democracy.

At this time we express our deep concern about the charges against former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), often referred to as "the father of Taiwan's democracy," who was indicted on June 30 on charges of allegedly channeling US$7.8 million from secret diplomatic funds into the Taiwan Research Institute. These charges and their timing raise a number of questions that are related both to the case itself and the integrity of the judicial system in Taiwan.
After detailing the specific questions (which you can read at the link above) -- the first of which mentions that the charges stem from events which took place about 15 years ago -- the letter continues [highlights mine]:
Mr President, as head of state you bear overall responsibility for the state of affairs in Taiwan. In democratic systems, proper checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches are of the utmost importance. The executive and the legislative branches have a responsibility to exercise oversight and to balance activism in the judiciary, just as the judiciary serves a similar role with regard to the executive and legislative branches. Stating that your government abides by "judicial independence" is therefore not enough. It is essential that all participants in the judicial process — prosecutors, judges and lawyers — are fully imbued with the basic principle that the judiciary is scrupulously impartial and not given to any partisan preferences.

We, as members of the international academic community, are left with the impression that the indictments and practices of the judiciary in Taiwan over the past three years reflect a judicial system that is increasingly influenced by political considerations. There has been a regression in the accomplishments of Taiwan's momentous democratization of the 1990s and 2000s. As good friends of Taiwan, we are deeply unsettled by this. It undermines Taiwan's international image as a free and democratic nation.

Mr President, we therefore urge you and your government to ensure that the judicial system is held to the highest standards of objectivity and fairness. Taiwan has many challenges ahead of it and it cannot afford the political divisions created by the use of the judicial system for political purposes.

Respectfully yours,
[the undersigned]
You can say that again (and they probably will)!

Some of the prequels
Don't forget the earlier parts of this long-running series, listed here 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 -- was signed by more than 2,000 people. (The petition is now closed.)

* 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. [9] 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, 2010: 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.

* February 9, 2010: Michael Danielsen, one of the signatories of the Open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou last November, rebuts Su Jun-pin's response to Richard Kagan last month by pointing out that Democratic liberty is fundamental, "look[ing] forward to actual steps [by Su and the Ma government] that go beyond mere words."

* April 11, 2011: Another open letter criticizes the government's charges that 17 former DPP officials are responsible for "'failing to return' about 36,000 documents during the DPP administration" which ended almost three years earlier.

* April 14, 2011: In what is hard not to perceive as intimidation, the Foreign Ministry says it's going to probe this latest open letter, with Ma officials implying along the way that some of the writers were not of sound mind.

* April 17, 2011: The Chinese-language Liberty Times (自由時報) notices the intimidation factor: "The Liberty Times Editorial: KMT uses law as a political weapon."

* April 22, 2011: The Taipei Times draws a similar conclusion: "EDITORIAL: Government starts to sound like PRC."
I can already imagine how the Ma government will respond the latest letter.

How long can this continue? As long as Taiwanese allow the Chinese KMT to hold political power, it will just keep going and going and going.

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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