Wed, Jun 25, 2008 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The upshot of foolishness

Taiwan has had more than its fair share of deplorable behavior on the part of political figures and civil servants. This has included adolescent displays of aggression in the legislature, rumor-mongering and vulgar personal attacks — all of which show a disregard for democracy.

Former Ministry of Education secretary-general Chuang Kuo-rong (莊國榮), however, seems to find it difficult to behave otherwise.

After the disgraceful end to his position at the ministry in March, Chuang returned to teaching at National Chengchi University (NCCU). But last week, when Chuang’s contract came up for review, the school declined to renew it.

At a press conference on Saturday, Chuang accused the university of violating his right to employment and implied that the move was a politically motivated retaliation for his verbal attacks on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) during his campaign in December and March. He offered a mocking apology to “emperor” Ma for daring to “criticize” him in a democratic country and said that some presidents were clearly “semi-deities.”

Chuang said the university had violated procedural rules when it did not renew his contract, an allegation that deserves to be probed. With news emerging last week that outgoing representative to the US Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) had also lost his contract at NCCU, there is in fact reason for concern that the university is not maintaining political neutrality.

The university, however, did cite legitimate concerns in its decision not to re-employ Chuang. NCCU said Chuang had made discriminatory comments, making him unfit for employment at the university.

A university has a responsibility to uphold neutrality and tolerance. Any public profession of discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or other factors is legitimate grounds to doubt a teacher’s suitability.

In December, Chuang attacked Ma and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) by implying they were homosexual and calling them effeminate.

Then, at a campaign rally for Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) one week before the election in March, Chuang made a salacious comment about the sex life of Ma’s late father, Ma Ho-ling (馬鶴凌). His comments provoked a storm of criticism and within hours he resigned from the ministry.

Both incidents showed a lack of prudence that, while alarming, would not be grounds for dismissal from NCCU. But Chuang’s comments in December also revealed a taste for bigotry — and that is of concern to a university.

The inappropriateness of his comments, however, still seems lost on Chuang, who at his press conference showed he had learned nothing from the incident.

Calling a political figure homosexual and his father licentious does not constitute “criticism,” as Chuang euphemistically called it at his press conference over the weekend, but an undignified personal attack that rightly ended his service at the ministry.

Unfortunately, similarly reprehensible behavior by other officials and politicians has in many cases not prompted similar results. National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起), who has fabricated attacks on people and invented history over the years, is just one example. His party’s response, far from castigation, was to reward Su with a top position in Ma’s administration.

But political parties do not alone bear the responsibility for the behavior of their members. The public has the task of shunning unfit candidates, and can do so both in local and national polls. If Taiwan is to see an improvement in its politicians and officials, the public will have to demand it.

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