How satisfying it was to hear that, following Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kun's (江丙坤) trip to China and his illegal signing of a 10-point agreement with representatives of the Chinese government, he is to be investigated for treason -- conviction for which carries a penalty of from seven years to life imprisonment. But is this, perhaps, going too far?
It is not that we think the penalties Chiang faces are excessive. But we do wonder whether an accusation of treason might not in the end backfire.
The difficulty about prosecution for treason lies in the wording of Article 113 of the Criminal Code. In the section concerning assistance to enemy states, treasonous behavior is defined as entering into an agreement with a foreign government or its representatives on matters requiring government approval without obtaining that approval.
The problem is not whether Chiang did this; he did -- ?and it was even televised. Rather, the difficulty lies in the definition of a "foreign government." Under current Taiwan law, China is not defined as a foreign country -- a leftover from the days of KMT fantasy when the Taipei government pretended to be the "real" government of China. There have been attempts to redefine the situation from the point of view of diplomacy -- such as Lee Teng-hui's (
It is not difficult, therefore, to see that the investigation of Chiang initiated by an unnamed plaintiff this week might not be an attempt to put Chiang where he so richly deserves to be -- a jail cell. Rather, it is simply a political tactic aimed at forcing an amendment of the tediously named Statute Governing Relations Between People of the Taiwan Area and People of the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) onto the agenda of the Legislative Yuan. Now if such an amendment were likely to pass, this would be a smart move. But given the dominance of the legislature by the pan-blues, it is not likely to pass.
That, Taiwanese nationalist strategists might say, is not the point. The point is that the measure should at least be debated in the legislature. In doing so it will generate news which will be reported even by the pan-blue media and this will have value in itself in contributing to consciousness-raising among Taiwanese. The impetus for change, they reason, has to come from educating the public about the iniquities, inequalities and absurdities of the ancien regime many of which are still extant. And this education has to occur through presentation in a forum the importance of which cannot be denied. Most Taiwanese don't seem to realize that the enemy nation that threatens their freedom, their values and way of life, even their very existence is not defined under the law either as an enemy or even as a state. The Chiang investigation will fail because of this, but it will start a debate that will increase Taiwanese consciousness.
The problem with this reasoning is that it assumes the Chiang prosecution will fail, so it isn't really serious about punishing Chiang for his actions -- well illustrated by Chiang's hob-nobbing with Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) Thursday.
But it should be serious. And there are other laws under which Chiang could be prosecuted, where the penalties may not be as severe but the chances of conviction are far greater. The urgent task to be accomplished is not expanding Taiwanese consciousness, but to punish KMT traitors with jail time. First Chiang, then any others, including Chairman Lien Chan (
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