In a recent open letter (“Eroding justice: Open letter No. 3,” Jan. 21, page 8) the signatories express their concern for fairness in Taiwan’s judicial system. The government of the Republic of China appreciates their concern, but we find in the open letter a number of points of inaccuracy or misunderstanding about which I would like to provide clarification.
The open letter alleges that during the visit of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) in November, police infringed on basic human freedoms, and infers that our government has taken no action to investigate such allegations. Actually, however, the National Police Agency has conducted internal investigations of such allegations and has so far taken disciplinary measures against five policemen whose behavior was found to be flawed.
Moreover, our Control Yuan and the public prosecutor’s office of the Taipei District Court are in the process of investigating complaints of improper police behavior together with instances of protester violence during Chen’s visit.
These facts demonstrate that our government takes this matter seriously and that our various investigatory mechanisms are functioning effectively.
In this connection, we note that preliminary data of the National Police Agency indicates that more than 170 policemen were injured by unruly protesters, as compared with 40 civilians (including reporters) who were injured, while 18 persons were arrested based on evidence that they did indeed perpetrate violence. The standards applied in making these arrests and in reviewing criticisms of police behavior are completely in line with those applied in other democratic nations.
As to why our government does not conduct such investigations by establishing a special independent commission, we have publicly explained this before: The Control Yuan is a branch of government constitutionally mandated to investigate allegations of misconduct by public servants, including police authorities, and to function independently of other branches of government. The US government, for example, has no comparable independent investigatory body and its Congress must therefore sometimes resort to establishing independent commissions.
In 2004, our Legislative Yuan established a special commission to investigate the shooting incident in which then president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) were injured. Later, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional certain aspects of the law by which the special commission was established, rendering the commission inoperative.
This demonstrates that under the constitutional system of the Republic of China, the Control Yuan suffices to play the role of independent investigatory body, and the establishment of a special commission in competition with the Control Yuan’s function is constitutionally questionable.
As people who are knowledgeable about Taiwan, the signatories of the open letter should be quite familiar with the aforementioned episode in history and understand its significance. Currently, the Control Yuan is in the process of re-examining the events of March 19, 2004.
Further, the open letter expresses concern about the legality of the switch of panels of judges to conduct the trial of former president Chen. Following the Dec. 12 indictment of the former president on multiple charges of corruption and money laundering, the Taipei District Court determined that because the charges concern complex financial matters of major importance, the trial should be conducted by a panel of judges with specialized competence in such matters. Through a lot-drawing procedure, the court assigned the case to a three-member panel of judges headed by Chou Chan-chun (周占春).