Tue, Jan 24, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Still wedded to `black gold'

While President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was busy with the Cabinet reshuffle over the weekend, top politicians from the pan-blue camp were attending a wedding in Taichung County.

The happy event on Saturday was hosted by Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator Yen Chin-piao (顏清標) -- originally a gangster who has been implicated in a number of major criminal cases -- for the marriage of his 17-year-old son. The Yen family invited more than 19,000 guests, filling at least 1,900 banquet tables. They received more than NT$30 million (US$940,000) in cash gifts.

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) praised the extravagant wedding as setting a new Guinness World Record. The pan-blue camp's other leaders -- KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) -- also attended.

The hypocrisy of criticizing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's corruption and incompetence while affirming ties with criminals such as Yen seemed to escape the pan-blue leadership.

What contempt for the rule of law.

Yen began his career as a gangster in central Taiwan. He was later charged with corruption during his term as Taichung County Council speaker. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined NT$10 million by the Taichung District Court in August 2001. Despite being in jail, he was elected a legislator in December that year.

In January 2002, the Taiwan High Court reduced his sentence to 11 years and six months, and cut his fine to NT$6 million. He was released on bail for NT$5 million and has remained free since then. He still faces other charges, however, ranging from firearms possession to attempted murder.

Yen, who became a legislator in February 2002, is basically an independent. There was no need for senior KMT officials to grace his son's wedding and use the most mendacious flattery to praise a man who is a convicted criminal.

The courts are also turning a blind eye to someone who has been out on bail for nearly four years, saying nothing as he puts on a lavish celebration that can only serve to undermine the public's faith in the judiciary.

The government's silence also offers a glaring example of its incompetence. The opposition could have used this occasion to take the government to task, but instead has gone out of its way to cosy up to a man with known criminal connections.

During the 2000 presidential election, the DPP exposed the close ties between the KMT and criminal figures such as Yen, Chang Jung-wei (張榮味) and Cheng Tai-chi (鄭太吉), a former Pingtung County Council speaker who has since been executed for murder. This helped convince many that it was time to vote the KMT government out of office.

Now, in its turn, the DPP is tolerating gangsters. This should be cause for the public to demand that it take a firm stance on criminal behavior and judicial reform, in order to fortify the last line of defense for the nation's civil society.

As for the KMT, when it fell from power in 2000, it promised to cut all ties to "black gold" figures. Last summer, Ma, in his campaign for the chairmanship of the KMT, defeated Wang on an anti-black-gold platform. Despite these promises of change, the KMT leadership has decided to continue to walk hand-in-hand with criminals. The party, and Ma in particular, is likely to pay a heavy price for renewing its vows with sleaze.

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