Taiwan is by all accounts a vibrant democracy, but if it wants to safeguard its liberty and freedom, it urgently needs significant judicial reform.
The nation’s democratic transition occurred more than 20 years ago, yet the judicial system still reflects many traits dating back to the days of martial law, when Taiwan languished under one-party domination of the Chinese National Party (KMT). Significant improvements were made in the early 1990s, especially under the governments of presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), but many feel there has been a regression since 2008, when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office.
Although the courts often show their political bias, there have been some positive developments, such as the cases of former National Science Council vice minister Shieh Ching-jyh (謝清志), former deputy foreign minister Michael Kau (高英茂) and former National Security Council secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), who were recently acquitted. The fact that they were declared not guilty is gratifying, but it came at a cost of years of costly legal proceedings.
The problem of political bias lies with the prosecutors, and especially with the Special Investigation Division (SID) of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. Not only does the organizational structure make them vulnerable to political influence, but for far too long individuals who occupy these positions have been supporters of the KMT. Their allegiance to the ruling party has guaranteed them their perks and positions.
This political bias is evident from the eagerness with which the prosecutors go after present and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials, and their reluctance to investigate KMT officials, especially those in high places.
In December last year, when DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was pulling ahead of Ma in the race for the presidency, the SID suddenly opened an investigation into the 2007 involvement of Tsai in the Yu Chang Biologics Co, a highly successful biotech company which is developing medicine for the treatment of AIDS. That this investigation happened less than a month before the elections was of course no coincidence. The SID also made sure the press received all the necessary information to write sensationalized articles.
By contrast, in June of this year, Next Magazine published charges that Cabinet secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) was involved in corrupt dealings, the SID moved slowly and gingerly. It did arrest Lin, question and detain him, but observers in Taiwan indicate that the investigation has dragged on for weeks and express doubt that the probe into the financial dealings of Lin, who has long been a confidant of Ma, is thorough enough.
Making its political bias even more evident, on July 31, the Investigation Bureau of the Ministry of Justice (MJIB) suddenly launched a major investigation into the involvement of the DPP Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) and her predecessor, Chen Ming-wen (陳明文), in the Dapumei herbal medicine biotech park project. The investigation stems from the period 2004 to 2006. That it suddenly pops up now does not seem to be a coincidence. It is clearly designed to draw attention away from the Lin Yi-shih corruption case.
What can be done? The people of Taiwan need to voice their concerns and ensure that there is a movement towards a fair and balanced judicial system in which people can expect a fair trial with no political interference.
Judicial reform is essential if Taiwan wants to safeguard its hard-won freedom and democracy.
Mark Kao is president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.
If social media interaction is any yardstick, India remained one of the top countries for Taiwan last year. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has on several occasions expressed enthusiasm to strengthen cooperation with India, one of the 18 target nations in her administration’s New Southbound Policy. The past year was instrumental in fostering Taiwan-India ties and will be remembered for accelerated momentum in bilateral relations. However, most of it has been confined to civil society circles. Even though Taiwan launched its southbound policy in 2016, the potential of Taiwan-India engagement remains underutilized. It is crucial to identify what is obstructing greater momentum
In terms of the economic outlook for the semiconductor industry, Taiwan has outperformed the rest of the world for three consecutive years. This is quite rare. In addition, Taiwan has been playing an important role in the US-China technology dispute, and both want Taiwan on their side, reflecting the remaking of the nation’s semiconductor industry. Under the leadership of — above all — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the industry as a whole has shifted from a focus on capacity to a focus on quality, as companies now have to be able to provide integration of hardware and software, as well as
US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy on China and the Indo-Pacific region will have huge repercussions for Taiwan. The US Department of State in the final weeks of former US president Donald Trump’s term took several actions clearly aimed to push Biden’s foreign policy to build on Trump’s achievements. Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s announcement on the final day of the Trump administration that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was committing “genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang was welcome, but comes far too late. The recent dropping of “self-imposed” restrictions on meetings between Taiwanese and US officials was
In memory of Diane Baker: one of the last working dance journalists, a true dance aficionado and dear friend. On Friday, through a mutual friend, I received the shocking news that dance critic Diane Baker had passed away suddenly at her apartment in Tianmu, Taipei. The news quickly spread, and messages of concern quickly swarmed in from the dance community in Taiwan and abroad. Her sister Sharon in the US later confirmed that Diane died of a heart attack on Wednesday last week. She was 65. Diane was a dear friend to Taiwan’s dance community. Her frequent appearance at dance performances in