Sun, Dec 05, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Only the facts matter in shooting

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

On the eve of the special municipality elections on Nov. 27, Sean Lien (連勝文), son of former vice president Lien Chan (連戰), took to the stage in Taipei County to stump for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) city councilor candidate Chen Hung-yuan (陳鴻源). Without warning, a gunshot rang out and Sean Lien fell, seriously injured. The actual motive for the shooting is still being investigated, but what is certain is that the incident has cast a shadow over politics and elections in Taiwan.

Some people have mentioned that this represents a failure of security, while others believe it should be interpreted as a -politically motivated shooting. There is also the theory that Sean Lien was the victim of mistaken identity and the bullet did not have his name on it at all. Whatever the truth is, because a shooting took place where people had gathered on the eve of the election, and given Sean Lien’s high political profile, the incident was immediately reported around the world. The BBC and Hong Kong media outlets gave it quite in-depth coverage. As a result, the incident has taken on both political and security implications.

Since this was a political shooting, it was immediately clear that it could not be treated in the same way as any other criminal case. The investigators had to have a degree of political sensitivity, otherwise the investigation could have attracted external complications and even blown up into a political storm. Following the shooting, it was important for the government to ensure the basic facts of the case were publicly announced in the shortest time possible, to make sure the respective camps did not get the chance to put their own unfounded political interpretation or spin on the course of events.

To this end, the National Police Agency went into overdrive and called a press conference on the night of the shooting to announce the facts as they understood them at the time. That was certainly commendable. It was also the first stage in the police’s standard operational procedure when dealing with crimes of a political nature. The point is, it is of utmost importance to announce the “facts” of a case such as this as soon as possible to reassure the public and, in particular, the politicians.

Why? Because people are given to interpreting any given set of facts differently, depending on an individual’s political views.

This leads us to the prickly issue of scientific evidence, which, should it be lacking, could allow the truth as presented to be compromised or turned on its head. This in turn could well lead to needless controversy.

In the case at hand, this is what we know: Sean Lien was present at the campaign headquarters of a Sinbei City councilor candidate and allegedly during the evening was shot at close range by the suspect Lin Cheng-wei (林正偉), who apparently carried a handgun. The victim was shot in the face and is currently being treated in the emergency room of National Taiwan University Hospital. That’s basically it.

The evidence amassed includes video recordings of the shooting, photographs of the crime scene, the gun and a number of bullets. There was some other evidence, but the police decided to hold it back, concerned that it had been compromised in the chaos and was therefore unreliable. That is something they can address over the course of the subsequent investigation.

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