There is a feeling of discontent pervading Taiwan of late, with mass street protests over the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and the forced demolitions of houses in Miaoli County’s Dapu Borough (大埔) precipitating a Cabinet reshuffle. Even the Control Yuan, usually so reluctant to get involved in the news, has made headlines over its failure to impeach Keelung Mayor Chang Tong-rong (張通榮).
The affair started when Chang attempted to intervene in the case of a woman accused of drunk driving. Chang was caught on video — later posted on YouTube — lambasting the police over the case. The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Evaluation and Discipline Committee suspended Chang for three months, while a court found him guilty of influence peddling and sentenced him to one year and eight months in prison.
Despite a consensus that Chang acted inappropriately, and irrespective of the fact he was found guilty, the Control Yuan failed to vote to impeach him, twice.
Angered and frustrated, Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien (王建煊) was moved to tell the media that perhaps the nation would be better off without the Control Yuan, saying it was a body in which people were given positions as political rewards. His remarks were condemned by 19 Control Yuan members.
At this point, legislators entered the fray, with some even proposing a constitutional amendment to abolish the Control Yuan, reducing the constitutional branches of the government to three and transferring its powers of investigation and oversight to the legislature.
With some officials bent on dismantling the government, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), currently overseas, was obliged to make an urgent telephone call home to try to calm the situation before things got out of hand.
The Control Yuan only has itself to blame. Chang’s behavior was there for all to see on YouTube and any normal person could see that he did not have a leg to stand on, morally speaking.
Prosecutors thought Chang’s behavior sufficiently dubious to take him to court, where he was found guilty of abusing his position, and although he has yet to appeal, the criminality of his actions is apparent.
After much discussion, Control Yuan members voted on two occasions not to impeach him, although they have not publicly said why. The vote not only failed to meet public expectations, it also runs counter to the law and might not be welcomed even within the KMT.
Such a result was always going to stir up doubt among the public about the effectiveness of the Control Yuan. Rumors of Chang paying for dinners for Control Yuan members have only added to this.
The Control Yuan has 29 members. The annual bill for their combined salaries is NT$76.7 million (US$2.56 million), an average of NT$2.64 million each.
Since 2008 the Control Yuan has cost the taxpayer NT$4.5 billion, investigating 200 impeachments, each costing on average NT$22.5 million. Most of the officials investigated have been relatively small fry, and 70 percent got off with a reprimand.
Far from bagging tigers, the Control Yuan finds swatting flies challenging, and when it features in the news, it is mostly for members criticizing each other.
Ironically, the biggest beast it has brought down recently was its own former secretary-general, Chen Feng-yi (陳豐義), early last month.
The Control Yuan does not enjoy a great reputation at the best of times. Its members do not have anything like the integrity and fortitude of people like Tao Pai-chuan (陶百川), a Control Yuan member in the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) era who did not fear authority and dared to speak his mind when it came to rooting out corruption and correcting government policy.