Thu, Apr 19, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Failure to punish Liu would set a precedent

By Wu Ching-chin 吳景欽

Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), the former director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, Missouri, was recently impeached by the Control Yuan for breaking the law and neglecting her duties. According to reports, Liu also illegally employed a Chinese woman as a housekeeper, and is being questioned over whether national secrets were disclosed.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was in charge of the investigation, issued a guarantee that Liu was innocent even before it began its own inquiries.

The ministry started investigating immediately after Liu returned home, although it failed to deliver any punishment. It was only after strong public pressure that the ministry suspended her.

The Control Yuan has now impeached Liu, but whether she will be punished is still something to be decided by a disciplinary committee for civil servants under the Judicial Yuan, which will take time.

Supposing Liu is not given a strong punishment and is instead merely put on temporary leave from her position, or given a demotion or pay deduction, or if she is just given a demerit or reprimanded, other civil servants will fail to see this as a warning. A light punishment will also see taxpayers foot the bill for Liu’s legal expenses and the hefty payouts she will have to make to those she wronged. Impeachment should be seen as merely the first step in the process, with the most important step being further investigation by prosecutors.

Liu’s illegal deduction from the salaries of her two Filipina housekeepers constitutes a civil servant handing in falsified official documents. If she pocketed the other half of their salaries, this would be a civil servant obtaining the personal property of others in contravention of Article 5 of the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例). The statutory sentence for this crime is not only more than seven years imprisonment, but a fine of up to NT$60 million (US$2 million), as this constitutes corruption, which is a felony.

Liu’s use of a monitor to keep track of all the movements of her two housekeepers not only limited their actions, but also encroached on their freedom of person. This is viewed as a serious crime under international law, and Article 29 of the Criminal Code has prescriptions for those who force others into slavery.

In addition, based on the principle of universal jurisprudence and according to Article 5 of the Criminal Code, Liu’s actions can still be prosecuted under the code even though they were committed outside of Taiwan.

All such acts are considered felonies under the code, and actions like these taken by Taiwanese harm the country’s international image.

However, after returning to Taiwan, Liu not only denied any wrongdoing, she also denied she had admitted to committing any crimes while in the US and implied that she had been framed. If prosecutors are not rigorous in their dealings with Liu, they will be encouraging wrongdoing and corruption.

In the face of such serious breaches of the law, the ministry should have taken this as an opportunity to enforce discipline and punish criminals. Unfortunately, officials have only concerned themselves with how to cover the issue up and how to make it appear less serious than it really is.

While Liu did not collude with any other officials, it would be hard for those who were supposed to have been monitoring her to shirk responsibility. The Control Yuan should also be investigating other people as well.

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