President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last week announced that all corruption cases, regardless of whether they involve pan-blue or pan-green officials, must be thoroughly and promptly investigated, and ordered the judiciary and executive branches to submit a report on all major corruption cases within three months.
Shortly after these announcements, Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) told the legislature that the ministry had completed a feasibility study on establishing an anti-corruption agency and that it would submit a proposal on measures to weed out corruption within three months. Failing to do that, Wang said she would step down.
These policy statements by the president and a minister were made in response to mounting allegations of corruption within the military, including selling titles and offices, and a report last week by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy on foreign business executives’ perception of corruption in Taiwan and China. Wang even put her career at stake in an attempt to gain public trust.
Announcing a crackdown on corruption is nothing new nor surprising. In fact, it would be big news if the government failed to announce actions to combat corruption. All Taiwanese leaders have at one point or another declared their stance against corruption, with some even saying that the Lafayette scandal must be resolved even if it shook Taiwan to the core. Sadly, those promises were never realized.
The reasons why the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regained power after eight years in opposition are complex, with the pan-green and pan-blue camps offering differing explanations of the cause. However, I believe no one would dispute my contention that the main reason was the clean image that Ma has created over the years. This being the case, the public has high expectations of the KMT government after its return to power and probably lent strong support to the government’s fight against corruption. While similar policy statements from past administrations never resulted in any substantive improvement, we are still willing to give strong support to the current government.
Apart from showing our support, however, we should also express our concern. After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power, the administration made a crackdown on corruption a key policy. Chen Ding-nan (陳定南), with his clean and honest image, was named minister of justice. Chen pushed a plan to eliminate “black gold” politics and established the Black Gold Investigation Center (查緝黑金行動中心) under the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors’ Office (台灣高檢署). For a time, these initiatives won public acclaim for investigating a few high-profile cases that saw a number of symbolic figures of “black gold” politics being brought before the law.
After a few years in office, the DPP administration reverted back to being in opposition after losing the presidential election, but statistics released by the Ministry of Justice are worrying. These figures show that from 2001 through last year, 93.1 percent of people involved in regular criminal cases were convicted after being charged by prosecutors, but the rate of conviction for corruption was only 56.1 percent. If we single out influence peddling as a crime, the conviction rate was even lower at 33.9 percent.