The Special Investigation Division (SID) has accused Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of calling former minister of justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) and “lobbying” him. The news sent shockwaves through the country and the nation’s political world reeled.
Immediately, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced his shock and horror at the allegations and the next day he issued a public statement ordering Wang to return immediately from his trip abroad to explain himself.
Shortly after, the Presidential Office called a press conference in which Ma spoke — with rarely heard gravity — about how Taiwan was on a dangerous course, and how that day was “the most shameful day in the development of democracy and the rule of law in Taiwan.”
He roundly criticized his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) colleague Wang, saying: “Each one of us needs to ask ourselves, if this is not lobbying, then what is? If powerful people can lobby and influence the judiciary, how can ordinary people be assured of judicial justice?”
People are incensed when powerful figures try to influence the judiciary. However, the case against Wang is based on inferences made from conversations obtained through surveillance and hasty conclusions. The case will be viewed differently in the political realm than in a legal setting.
If Ma believes Wang’s telephone conversations constitute improper lobbying, perhaps he is being hypocritical.
On Nov. 5, 2010, Taipei District Court Judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春) declared former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) not guilty of the charges against him in connection with the second financial reform.
Two days later, Ma — in his capacity as president — openly discussed the case, criticizing the not-guilty verdict in the strongest of terms. He said: “The judiciary should be independent, but it cannot be isolated, neither can it shy away from the reasonable expectations that the public has of it.”
On Nov. 9, he held a banquet at the Presidential Office, to which he invited the premier, the vice premier, the legislative speaker, the deputy speaker, the president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan, the secretaries-general of those institutions, the minister of justice and the prosecutor-general. During the dinner he said: “Respecting the law does not equate to ignoring the disappointment and anger the general public feels about the judges that deliver verdicts that fail to meet the reasonable expectations the people have of them. I have heard what people have had to say, and I have taken note.”
On that occasion Ma announced that the SID had already decided to appeal the verdict on the second financial reform case.
Then on Nov. 11, the Supreme Court convicted Chen — in a move unprecedented for such a complex and highly contentious case — sending the former president, who had already been detained for a long time, to jail.
Perhaps this is what Ma meant when he talked of meeting the public’s reasonable expectations. Shockingly, the court did not announce its verdict in full until a month later.
Is this sequence of events an example of “powerful people” lobbying and influencing the judiciary? Does Ma think that inviting senior members of the judiciary to a dinner and commenting on individual cases could be considered “political guidance”? Were these actions flagrant lobbying of the Supreme Court in order to see his political enemy put behind bars?
Chen Chih-chung is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and has a master’s in law from New York University.
Translated by Paul Cooper
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
In 1955, US general Benjamin Davis Jr, then-commander of the US’ 13th Air Force, drew a maritime demarcation line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, known as the median line. Under pressure from the US, Taiwan and China entered into a tacit agreement not to cross the line. On July 9, 1999, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) described cross-strait relations as a “special state-to-state” relationship. In response, Beijing dispatched People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft into the Taiwan Strait, crossing the median line for the first time since 1955. The PLA has begun to regularly traverse the line. On Sept. 18 and 19, it
On Sept. 8, at the high-profile Ketagalan security forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged countries to deal with the China challenge. She said: “It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, to discuss a framework to generate sustained and concerted efforts to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions.” The “Taiwan model” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic provides an alternative to China’s authoritarian way of handling it. Taiwan’s response to the health crisis has made it evident that countries across the world have much to learn from Taiwan’s best practices and if