The three-man team of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator and chair of the legislature’s Judiciary, Organic Laws and Statutes Committee Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), National Police Agency Senior Executive Officer John Chu (曲來足) and Ministry of Justice Counselor Chin Jeng-shyang (覃正祥) arrived in Washington on Monday with a mission: Visit the center of US power to rebut recent allegations of a backslide in human rights, an increase in police brutality and political persecution by the judiciary that have tarnished the reputation of the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
But if the performance at their first port of call, the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, was the yardstick with which to judge the success of the venture, then the group may have been better off staying home.
Things started badly as Hsieh embarked on a rambling, directionless 20-minute opening oration that included an outrageous quip that after living in Los Angeles for more than 10 years he knew what police brutality was.
Then came a largely inaudible presentation on the mechanics of the judicial system from Chin, who at times struggled to read his own writing.
Chu’s presentation was better, but his material was one-sided, portraying the police injured during protests against Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit last month as the victims. It also contained factual errors and questionable figures concerning the number of injured protesters.
The word “embarrassing” would not even begin to describe the trio’s performance. It was a comedy the Three Stooges would have been proud of.
But worse was to follow, as Hsieh’s eagerness to please and his parroting of the hard pan-blue line quickly turned the presentation, which must have been conceived as a serious government attempt to set the record straight, into an amateurish attempt at whitewash in which the participants had forgotten the paint.
Trying to counter claims of political persecution, Hsieh repeatedly referred to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). The zeal with which he talked about Chen’s alleged crimes — even when answering questions that did not necessarily concern Chen — must have only reinforced the perception among the audience that Chen is indeed being politically persecuted.
At one point, Hsieh was ranting so much that forum host Stephen Yates had to step in and remind him about the presumption of innocence and other basic legal concepts.
Hsieh’s repeated claims that it was the Democratic Progressive Party that blocked the KMT’s attempts at legal reform for the last eight years would not have convinced this audience. Attendees included people with decades of experience in and knowledge of Taiwanese affairs such as former American Institute in Taiwan chairs Nat Bellocchi and Therese Shaheen and the Heritage Foundation’s John Tkacik, individuals who are fully aware of which party has held a legislative majority during that time.
Then, when the floor opened to questions, the trio did their best to avoid answering anyone who cast doubt on their version of events.
In summary, their arguments were weak, their facts and figures were inaccurate and their presentation was downright awful. As it stands, the video of the session could stand as a tutorial for future delegations of what not to do.
If the Ma administration was worried about opinion in Washington before the trip, this public relations disaster should have them even more concerned.