Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's Mailbag

The wrong course

Dear Johnny,

On Dec. 10, right after awarding the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy’s (TFD) Asia Human Rights and Democracy Award, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) publicly instructed his Cabinet to sign the two UN Human Rights Conventions as soon as possible.

This was about as intelligent as Ma saying that the defeat of the 2004 referendums justified delaying arms purchases or that the defeat of last year’s referendums justified not applying for UN membership or, for that matter, UN membership under the name “Taiwan” when all of the referendums were boycotted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), thus insuring that the senseless 50 percent threshold could never be reached.

Regarding the conventions, signing and ratifying them would lead absolutely nowhere in terms of integrating international human rights bills into Taiwanese law, because they would never be deposited at the UN. The UN would never accept them as Taiwan is not a UN member. It would simply be good for a show, which Ma is definitely very good at staging (maybe the only thing).

Ma also ordered Cabinet members to orchestrate a response to the letters published in local papers by 22 scholars and Taiwan experts and to the letters of various international human rights and press rights organizations, all of which warned the public and the international community that we are indeed dancing to the strain of a Taiwan on the edge with regard to political freedom, justice and protection of human rights and a free press.

In these responses, the various authors (including the minister of justice), go on about how dearly they regard our democracy, impartial justice system, fair prosecuting methods, free press, etc, and how violent behavior by police during the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) did not constitute brutality and that more police were injured than demonstrators.

All this after Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) spoke publicly on you-know-which cases on Sisy Chen’s (陳文茜) TV talk show (the minister should have been sacked for this), videos showing police brutality, “deep green” reporters being interrogated about their relation to the Formosan Association for Public Affairs and other groups, a pro-Taiwan bookstore being ransacked, prosecutors appealing for former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) detention under KMT influence, press freedom suffering another blow with the KMT’s attempt to control the Public Television Service board and a host of former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials still being sought for questioning.

Oh, and what about KMT lawmakers trying to pass a third appeal to save their comrades from being ousted for vote-buying?

Ma should take seriously his old Harvard professor’s advice: Show leadership and create an independent inquiry on both police brutality and prosecutorial methods used for DPP officials.

If he takes human rights seriously, why doesn’t he do what he did with the cross-strait agreements and take a leaf from the DPP’s book? He could pass the human rights bill — drafted by the DPP with the assistance and supervision of the International Commission of Jurists — that is lying around at the legislature after being blocked by KMT and People First Party lawmakers. That would help keep Taiwan democratic.

A Concerned Canadian

Johnny replies: Maybe it all boils down to this: Ma never studied leadership at Harvard.

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