Thu, Mar 28, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Making an ass of Taiwan's law

"If the court's ruling cannot maintain harmony between groups of differing political ideologies, the judicial system will be held accountable for worsening the ideological gap." So said a statement by Taipei District Court Judge Huang Cheng-hui (黃程暉) on Tuesday, explaining why -- although he had found not one shred of evidence to suggest that the accusations of New Party ex-lawmakers Elmer Feng (馮滬祥) and Hsieh Chi-ta (謝啟大) against former first lady Tseng Wen-hui (曾文惠) were true -- the two defamers were acquitted. The irony is that it is these remarks and the judgement itself which have brought Taiwan's legal system into total disrepute. Until yesterday's absurdity is redressed, we can only say that Taiwan's legal system is worthy only of international contempt.

Strong words? Well, let's look at the evidence. Feng and Hsieh said that Tseng fled to the US the day after the March 2000 presidential election with 54 suitcases into which was stashed US$85 million. Not a single word of this was true. Tseng never went to the US at that time let alone with suitcases stuffed with cash. Feng and Hsieh did what they did purely for the sake of blackening Tseng's reputation. Let us make this clear: They acted entirely out of malice, taking no trouble whatsoever to verify the truth of their claim -- a simple phone call could have revealed the "rumor" as false. Nevertheless the District Court claimed that, as legislators, Feng and Hsieh had the right to raise potential issues that might be "damaging to the country" at any time and place of their choosing, whatever the evidence, or lack of it.

The District Court has thereby established an international first for Taiwan, a legal precedent for a Right to Defame. Basically, on Tuesday's ruling any legislator can say anything about anyone in public life and cannot be held accountable for it, however inaccurate it might be. Perhaps the TSU should take note of this in its current war of words against PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

Beyond that, we are of course touched that the judge should have decided the case on the basis of promoting ethnic harmony. But what happened to the idea of judging a case based on, well, the facts of the case? Those facts are ... but we've already been into this. Here, apparently, political considerations are to be a determining factor, considerations of ethnic harmony. But is it not absolutely plain that it was the accusations against Tseng that were themselves politically motivated? They were part of the general "blue camp" hatred of Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and everything to do with him that is still manifesting itself in the so called scandal of the National Security Bureau funds -- and here let us reiterate our position that the real scandal about the NSB is the pro-Beijing anti-Taiwan ideology of those who work for it and pass its secrets on to China and China's minions in Taiwan, especially the PFP. As regards the Tseng case, if inciting ethnic disharmony was really a legal consideration -- if, for example, there were a "hate speech" law -- then Feng and Hsieh should have faced certain conviction on those grounds as well.

The District Court judgement has made a laughing stock of the law. We can only hope that Tseng will file an appeal and obtain the justice that is owed to her from a higher court. That does not remove the stain from the District Court record. We can only hope the Judicial Yuan is seriously considering the behavior of Judge Huang, the blatantly one-sided and political nature of his judgement and its having brought Taiwan's judicial system into disrepute. Obviously such a man should not be on the bench. Worryingly he might not be the only one of his ilk. Time for a clean sweep of judges who practice politics.

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