Thu, Jun 15, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Death threats and double standards

Over the weekend, pirate radio stations in southern Taiwan reportedly aired malicious remarks aimed at Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), which encouraged the public to assassinate the pan-blue luminary as he and his party undertake a campaign to recall President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

There is no proof so far that the threatening remarks were made, with an initial report by the Cabinet-level National Communications Commission (NCC) indicating that the words "to assassinate" or "to kill" were not heard on the programs. But KMT legislators were quick to jump to their feet to lambaste the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration for "permissively allowing death threats under the pretense of freedom of expression."

The pro-China media has been eager to play up the unverified reports, running them on the hour for the past few days. The issue of Ma's safety is suddenly the nation's top concern, while callers to underground radio stations -- who are usually known for their pro-independence stance -- are in the meantime being described as "barbaric" people who "opt for the use of violence." The pan-blues are trying to paint all callers to pirate radio stations with the same brush, despite lacking any substantiated information on when the death threats were made and on what channel.

The pan-blues demanded that Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and the police conduct an immediate investigation into the matter. They even had a list ready of five ranking government officials, including Su, National Police Agency Director-General Hou Yu-ih, (侯友宜) and Minister of Justice Morley Shih (施茂林), who should be held responsible for the alleged threats.

The Kaohsiung Prosecutors' office was quick to respond, launching an investigation on Tuesday into the matter. The NCC said that it would move to assist the police in investigating the alleged calls to "assassinate" Ma.

The use of violence is unacceptable. And yes, it is important to take precautions against any rhetoric that might be turned into action and endanger the security and well-being of the nation's leaders. But what about the brazen, violent rhetoric from Ma himself? Unlike the unsubstantiated rumors of threats on underground radio stations, Ma's comments were aired for all to see on the nation's TV news stations. Apparently, to the country's pro-China media and some of the nation's prosecutors, some lives are more valuable than others.

Why didn't prosecutors express concern when Ma, while noting earlier this month that the opposition would only get one shot at recalling the president, brazenly incited the public by saying: "It's time to load the gun, but not yet time to pull the trigger"? Why hasn't the media been more critical after Ma on Wednesday urged Chen to take the initiative to resign instead of being recalled, warning him that he would "die a horrible death" if he didn't do so?

And NCC members have seemingly fallen asleep and missed the far more violent words such as "execute A-bian" and "kill [former president] Lee Teng-hui (李登輝)" which are often yelled in public by pro-unification diehards, posted on the People First Party's online forum and aired on a certain TVBS talk show program.

It appears that the only relevant difference here is the color of one's political affiliation.

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