If you are wondering whether a country is a democracy and governed by the rule of law, all you need to do is look at its judges and top officials.
At the war trials following World War II in Nuremberg and Tokyo, the accused were held accountable for the deaths of tens of millions of people and for the destruction they had wrought on the world.
Still, the judges were not driven by anger or revenge. Instead, they focused on the facts in a calm and detached manner, establishing which crimes had been committed and carefully searching for evidence.
Recently in Norway, a right-wing extremist, Anders Behring Breivik, killed more than 70 men and women. Yet the judges presiding over the case refrained from angry condemnation and instead focused on gathering evidence and discussing how the law should be applied.
By comparison, if we look at the reaction to the Justin Lee (李宗瑞) case, the details — how he allegedly seduced the women and how evidence was leaked — imply that Taiwanese society is suffering from a serious case of collective “peeping tom” syndrome.
The videos in question were extensively proliferated and many Taiwanese wasted no time in judging Lee.
When the court proceedings opened, the judge followed suit, criticizing Lee’s behavior as perverted, shameless, sick and depraved and taking pride in “defending morality.”
Such behavior demonstrates a glaring lack of professionalism and it would not be surprising if the judge violated the law in making those statements.
For what it is worth, it could be pointed out a number of politicians that easily match the judge’s description of Lee.
The judge’s lack of emotional composure during the hysterical outburst in court makes it abundantly clear that any verdict will not be impartial.
However, the judiciary is brimming with judges of this caliber.
When former US attorney general Ramsey Clark visited former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in prison, he also met with Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫).
During their meeting, someone mentioned that in no other country in Southeast Asia was a former head of state treated the way Chen was treated. In response, Tseng said: “I do not oppose anyone who would like to be a citizen of another country and receive that country’s treatment for prisoners.”
By using such a quick and witty response, Tseng created a defensive weapon for any official who wants pesky and aggressive reporters to just shut up.
Next time someone asks the minister of economy why Taiwan is falling behind South Korea, he can just say: “Why don’t you just move to South Korea?”
And if someone was daring enough to ask the president why Taiwan’s social welfare system lags so far behind Finland’s, the answer, of course, would be: “Why don’t you just move to Finland?”
Still, some people think this kind of “clever” remark is no different from, when arguing, people say: “There’s no lid on the Pacific, so if someone thinks China is so great, they can just go ahead and swim right over there.”
This only displays a lack of democratic understanding.
How can you not agree with former presidential adviser Wu Li-pei (吳澧培) when he says that Taiwan is not a democratic country governed by the rule of law? If you don’t think it’s a country, just replace country with “area.”
Peng Ming-min is a former senior political adviser to the president.