After six months in power, the most common criticism against President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration involves its pro-China leanings and its use of the judiciary and police to carry out political attacks and undermine human rights. The front page of the Nov. 24 issue of the US weekly Defense News ran a story headlined “In Taiwan, Arrests Raise Echoes of Martial Law.” The article mentioned that arrests of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members had led to allegations that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) “is back in the business of political repression.”
Since Ma’s government took office, the human rights situation has deteriorated, which is a shameful milestone in Taiwan’s democratic reform. On the one hand, this two-faced government claims to be following the law, while on the other, it openly uses violence against the demonstrators, restricting freedom of expression and arresting and settling scores with its political enemies. It has severely abridged the universal values of freedom and human rights. This is frightening and leads to worries that the ghost of the authoritarian past has come back to life.
The government is using the state’s monopoly on legal violence to suppress human rights, which has drawn strong domestic disapproval, while international human rights organizations have issued a series of statements calling for Ma and his administration to put an end to this worrying turn of events.
Among human rights organizations, Freedom House issued a statement on Nov. 20 calling on the government to set up an independent commission to investigate clashes between police and activists protesting against Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit to Taiwan and to show that Ma “is interested in upholding the democratic values of transparency and accountability.” The statement also said the inquiry should “investigate claims that police are selectively enforcing the law,” “examine controversial passages in Taiwan’s Assembly and Parade Law [集會遊行法]” and “protect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”
Freedom House was particularly concerned with police use “of heavy-handed tactics — including physical assault, arbitrary detention and destruction of property — to prevent Chen from seeing symbols of Taiwanese or Tibetan independence, as well as broader demonstrations against the Chinese regime.”
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on Nov. 20 expressed its “deep concern regarding the detention and attacks against citizens protesting peacefully during the visit of Chinese envoy Mr. Chen Yunlin. FIDH believes that such arrests and violence are grave violations of human rights, under the pretext of national security.”
Ma’s mentor at Harvard, Jerome Cohen, has also published an article calling for the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the incidents. Former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Nat Bellocchi and several others wrote an open letter to the Ministry of Justice expressing their “deep concern about the recent series of detentions in Taiwan of present and former Democratic Progressive Party government officials.”
In other words, the Ma administration’s use of police violence to suppress the public, its persecution of political enemies and its bias against pan-green individuals has caused widespread concern in the international community.