In a bid to gain the public’s trust, the Banciao District Prosecutors’ Office has made public all information on the investigation into the shooting of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Committee member Sean Lien (連勝文) in the hope that the public would accept its handling of the case, as well as its conclusions. However, many people continue to disagree with its finding that Lien was shot by mistake. Some even think this could affect the KMT in future elections. There are three reasons why many have found its conclusion unacceptable.
First, Taiwan’s criminal justice system is too far removed from the public sphere. This system, led by prosecutors’ offices, has long, and perhaps excessively, stressed its legal expertise, thus gradually alienating itself from the public. This may also have to do with the judiciary’s neglect of communicating with the public, or a consequence of judicial reform that overemphasizes judicial independence at the cost of attention to its connection with society, or the need to avoid lobbying due to the sensitivity of criminal cases.
Theoretically, the principle of social fairness and justice demands that investigations by police and prosecutors be free from political influence or interference. While most prosecutors and police officers hew to this principle, there is a gap between their understanding of the investigation process and their conclusions in the Lien shooting case and that of politicians and many members of the public. As a result, the case clearly reflects the distance between the experts in the criminal justice system and the lay members of the public. How to bridge this gap will depend on the joint efforts of the criminal justice system, politicians, academics and the general public.
Second, the difficulty in defining the character of the shooting: The question of whether it was it a non-political, a politically related, or an overtly political shooting remains controversial and a conclusion remains elusive. “Non-political shooting” refers to an incident in which a civilian is shot. “Overtly political shooting” refers to an incident where the shooting is politically motivated, while “politically related shooting” falls somewhere between the two, because the motivation is not directly political, but related to a financial or other dispute.
If it is a non-political shooting, an analysis of how prosecutors and police have handled non-political shootings in the past shows that they generally focus on the suspect and the weapon, and the case is considered to be solved if they can prove that the gun was used in the shooting and that it was shot by the suspect. That would earn the police a reward. Most people remain suspicious of the conclusions because prosecutors and police are treating Lien’s shooting as a non-political shooting.
Third, it is difficult to collect evidence to prove that a case is politically related. The current difficulty lies in the investigation results, since prosecutors and police have no evidence to prove that the shooting was politically related. According to reports in the media, it seems impossible to track the source of the gun. The investigation into the political connections of the alleged shooter, Lin Cheng-wei (林正偉), merely only showed he might be involved with the vice speaker of the New Taipei City (新北市) Council, the KMT’s Chen Hung-yuan (陳鴻源), and Chen’s campaign manager, Tu Yi-kai (杜義凱). However, it is hard to know the depth of his political connection.
In other words, in this particular shooting, many people want more information as to what was going on behind the scene, rather than just information about what happened at the scene of the shooting. This information would include whether Lin, nicknamed “Horse Face” (馬面), has ties to Lien, Chen, Tu or other political families and whether the source of the gun can be traced. Perhaps prosecutors and police can take their investigation in this direction, or perhaps higher political connections are required to clarify Lin’s political connections.
If we do not pay greater attention to the problems raised by the Lien shooting, the public could lose their confidence in both prosecutors and the police, and maybe even in the government. Such a case must be handled with extreme caution.
Yang Yung-nane is a professor of political science at National Cheng Kung University.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
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