The pan-blues may even try to characterize Cohen as a pan-green supporter, but they would find it hard to explain the contents of an editorial entitled “A calm look at the controversy over pre-trial detention” that recently appeared in the pro-blue China Times. The editorial asserts that “the existing system of pre-trial detention is dominated by the authoritarian notion that anyone accused of a crime should be arrested and locked up straight away,” and that whether a suspect is presumed to be guilty or innocent “marks the dividing line between a police state and a democratic country.” The stance of the editorial is very clear, stopping only one step short of saying that Ma’s government has turned Taiwan into a police state.
The two dozen academics and experts who signed the open letters and Ma’s mentor Cohen all agree that the conduct of the Chen case has been unjust. They do not seek to shield the corrupt, nor are their comments irrational. On the contrary, they have spoken out precisely because they are concerned for the truth and for judicial and human rights in Taiwan. Their purpose is, as the China Times editorial said, “to prevent anyone from being deprived of his or her constitutional right to due judicial process.”
If government authorities are allowed to trample on the rights of Chen today, they may abuse their powers with regard to anyone tomorrow.
In his conclusion, Cohen raised doubts that the defendants in the Chen cases could receive a fair judgment. That is why Max Chiang (江建祥), a Taiwanese lawyer practicing in the US, suggested that Chen should refuse to recognize the court and should remain silent, as is his right, on the grounds that the judges have acted unconstitutionally.
It would be meaningless for them to present any kind of defense, because the demand for the most severe penalty is already written into the indictment and it is in effect only a matter of waiting for instructions from the government as to how many years the accused will be sentenced to spend in jail. Each time he appears in court, Chen will merely be playing a walk-on part in a stage show whose script has already been written.
Cao Changqing is a writer based in the US.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG