Wed, Apr 27, 2011 - Page 8 News List


Ruling by law?

I am responding to the response from Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) which criticizes the open letter of 34 academics and former officials who raised questions about the nature of the investigation of missing documents from the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration (“Open letter to Ma Ying-jeou’s KMT government,” April 11, page 8).

Let me begin with the most important declaration of Lo’s response. His basic defense is that “the Republic of China is a nation based on rule of law.” This explanation for a government’s questionable behavior is a common self-indulgent argument, which stretches to the pinnacles of generalization and rhetoric, thus denying the specific reality and issues. We do not deny that you have laws. The relevant issue is: Are you employing them justly? Our questions about this are not seriously answered when you reply that you have laws.

Lo, by your promulgation of Taiwan’s “rule of law,” are you implying that you are above criticism? Or that there can never be a contradiction between a law and its implementation?

Are all laws equally applied at all times? Does not every government decide upon its priorities? Are you really suggesting that the timetable for your accusations were spontaneous and without any degree of a political context or agenda? Based upon our combined knowledge and experience of your application of your laws, we feel that in this case they do not pass the criteria of objectivity and of just administration. For example, your government has been much more assiduous in indicting and punishing DPP members rather than Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials.

As for your implied suggestion that we are foreigners and our criticisms are therefore “unfair and lack legitimacy,” I would remind you that your government has signed many international conventions. In doing so, you have justly entered into the realm of universal discourse and argumentation.

The Human Rights Report of the US Department of State reflects our concerns: “Some political commentators and academics also publicly questioned the impartiality of judges and prosecutors involved in high-profile and politically sensitive cases.”

I have taught international human rights law for many years. I have also written on the conditions of the legal system in many countries and have testified in US Congress. I have had negative responses to my remarks from officials in North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union. Their denial of my legitimacy fits into the same pattern as your dismissal of my and our group’s observations and communications.

Our group is aware that many international organizations have studied Taiwan’s democracy, human rights, military policy and governmental behavior. Some have judged your government’s actions as sliding down from heights that were commendable. In this light, we wish that your citizens would have the opportunity to “obey better laws.”

Finally, I am not bothered by your questions of my motives and logic. I am bothered that your priority seems to be to question and critique us and not answer some of our critics who have made provocative and wild accusations. In ruling by law, it is necessary for your government to maintain a truthful and rational dialogue with its people and with foreigners alike.

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