We live in a time of confused values. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is bragging about his policy achievements to support his bid for reelection as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman; former Bamboo Union leader Chang An-le (張安樂) has returned to Taiwan, talking about human rights and the rule of law; and retired general and former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), whose military career covered most of the Martial Law era, has published a book in which he talks about Taiwanese democracy.
Hearing Chang and Hau — two negative examples of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Taiwan — make lofty statements about the very values they both violated, it is no wonder that people confuse right and wrong.
After five years as president, there is both a national and an international consensus that Ma is an inept “bumbler.” He has failed to deliver on most of his promises, from the 6-3-3 campaign pledge in 2008 to the commitment that the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement would benefit Taiwan. Salaries have dropped, but now he has signed a cross-strait service trade agreement, praising its positive effects on the economy, while ignoring the public’s fears. Hearing him brag about his “achievements,” it is difficult to know whether to laugh or to cry.
As the longest-serving chief of the general staff of the Republic of China’s military, Hau had a major influence over military appointments and the enforcement of martial law. His military power was such that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had to appoint him premier to separate him from the military establishment and weaken his grip over it.
Hau was one of the main obstacles on Taiwan’s road to democracy, but he later helped block the power of the old KMT and helped move Taiwan’s military from individual and party leadership toward civil control. His contribution to Taiwan’s democracy has been passive, driving out evil with evil, rather than actively pushing for democratization. To hear Hau talk about democracy is to make a mockery of history.
Chang says that he has left his criminal life behind, but many find this difficult to believe. He was involved in the 1984 murder of Henry Liu (劉宜良), author of an unauthorized biography of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). After committing offenses in the US and Taiwan, Chang hid out in China for 17 years. Several of his alleged offenses have passed the statute of limitations. The penalties for the remaining do not exceed five years, so a court verdict is many years away and the risk Chang took in returning home was not very high.
The police officers that detained him on his arrival on Saturday last week wanted to remove a pro-unification pamphlet he was holding, but he said: “It was agreed that this would not be taken away.” Four hours after his detention, he was released on bail, leaving many with the impression that he had reached an agreement with the government that he should promote unification in front of the gathered press. The whole show no doubt greatly increased his standing with the Bamboo Union and Taiwan’s other organized crime organizations as well as Chinese authorities.
Chang’s well-publicized return may make many people think that he is an outlaw hero, but there is no heroism in being simply a wanted man. The fact that many of his alleged offenses have passed their statute of limitations does not make him innocent. The only reason that he was released on bail was that it is allowed under the remaining charges he faces.