As a result of the introduction of Chinese national education in Hong Kong’s educational curriculum and the resulting youth protests, I have recently been thinking about the issue of “Chinese culture.” I wonder to what extent Taiwan is afflicted by the Chinese cultural tradition of placing the rule of man over the rule of law. The reason the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now eager to promote Confucius is that the Confucian idea of the rule of man is in line with the goals of the government in Beijing.
At the turn of the century, in response to public discontent over increasing corruption in the Chinese government, then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) came up with the slogan “ruling the country by virtue.” Later, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) proposed the “eight honors and eight shames” slogan. Former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來), a protege of Jiang, took the highest moral ground when he proposed the idea of “praising the Communist Party and fighting organized crime,” and to date, not one Chinese official has openly dared to say anything against this.
The issue of corruption was completely ignored at the recent trial of Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), who was convicted of poisoning English businessman Neil Heywood. The reason is simple: If corruption were treated as a crime, hardly any senior CCP member would be able to keep their job. This is why from the beginning, Hu instructed that Gu’s case be treated as an isolated murder case. However, Gu’s dispute with Heywood involved money and ended in murder, so by not mentioning corruption, the CCP is making it all the more obvious that corruption was involved.
Taiwan’s judiciary is also full of examples of the rule of man. Let us look at the decisions handed out on two similar cases: one involving former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) state affairs fund and one involving then-Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) special allowance fund. Chen was subject to considerable moral preaching during his trial and received severe sentences. Ma, on the other hand, managed to donate the illicit funds he had obtained before the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) could file a lawsuit. The judge then cited this as proof of Ma’s lack of criminal intent and let him get away scot-free. In addition, in order to convict Chen, the judge originally in charge of the case, Chou Chan-chun (周占春), was changed. These are all blatant examples of the rule of man as opposed to the rule of law.
To promote unification, Ma does not hesitate to substitute universal, originally Western, values with “Chinese culture.” Besides pushing for the study of Chinese classics in Taiwanese schools, he also embarked on a campaign to promote good moral character among political officials. Thanks to this campaign, two examples of people of high moral character have now appeared among his troupe: former Cabinet secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) and Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘).
Lin did Ma’s dirty work for him and Yiin is a strong supporter of Ma. The public has seen the extent of Lin’s alleged corruption and disregard for the law, although many of the details surrounding the case remain unclear because the Special Investigation Division is still waiting for the people to come forward and provide evidence since it does not want to investigate the case. The handling of Lin’s case stands in stark contrast to the government’s proactive investigation into Chen’s case, which some said included fabricating evidence.