On May 31, the legislature passed an amendment to the Accounting Act (會計法) that decriminalizes certain illegal uses of public funds, including the misuse of special allowances by former Non-Partisan Solidarity Unionlegislator Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), and the misuse of research funds by National Taiwan University Hospital intensive care unit director Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). However, former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) misuse of the state affairs fund was not included.
Yen’s special allowances and Chen’s state affairs funds are similar, in that both were used to reward subordinates, entertain guests and give presents.
The actions of Yen, currently in prison for spending public funds in hostess bars during his term as Taichung County Council speaker, were no better than those of Chen, who used the funds to buy jewelry for his wife.
Such different treatment in the amendment is political persecution that consigns Chen to a virtual death sentence. No wonder he allegedly attempted to commit suicide after hearing the news.
In response to Chen’s alleged suicide attempt, the Ministry of Justice simply said that he is serving his term in prison for four other corruption cases, including the Lungtan case (龍潭案), while the state affairs funds case is still in progress. Therefore, the ministry says whether he should stay in prison or not has nothing to do with recent developments.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) also said that the cases of Yen and Chen are different.
This is nonsense. Nobody knows for certain how the current trial will conclude. Even if the court decides to sentence Chen, the maximum combined sentence for multiple crimes is 20 years.
Chen is already serving a 20-year term for the four other corruption cases, so the result of this trial will not mean an increase in how long he spends in jail, it will just be another humiliation thrown at him, the result of enmity toward the former president. If the court abides by the previous ruling of life imprisonment in the first instance, Chen will spend the rest of his life in prison anyway.
Regardless of which one the Ma administration is hoping for, it is all the result of shameless hatred and cold calculation.
Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University and a former teacher of Ma’s at Harvard, has said that while Chen’s behavior was repugnant and deserved to be punished according to the law, he should be given a fair trial, and his human rights should not be violated.
Unfortunately, the Ma administration has not listened.
All three branches of government — the executive, the judicial and the legislative — have been complicit in Chen’s political persecution, from his initial detention to the circumstances of his custody, from the way the judges presiding over his case were replaced to the exclusion of his case in the latest amendments to the Accounting Act. This has fed the public’s sympathy toward him.
As a result, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has found itself in a dilemma over its approach to its former leader, considering the increasing imbalance between Chen’s human rights and judicial justice.
When Chen said he wanted to rejoin the party, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) gave a speech telling party members to show their humanity and not to be too calculating.
People throughout the party were worried about the repercussions of letting Chen back in, for these would have been considerable. DPP legislators would not commit to signing a petition in support of his return, while party leaders did their best to avoid the press and, when unsuccessful, were reluctant to say whether they supported Chen’s application.