“Highest moral standards” has been a popular catchphrase for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
The public has heard him extol the importance of holding to high moral standards in his campaign speeches. Trumpeting the government’s continued quest for an incorruptible civil service and clean politics, he has lectured government officials on the need to engage in introspection and hold themselves to the “highest moral standards.” Most recently, Ma, who doubles as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, said moral concerns were behind the party’s decision to strip Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of his KMT membership over what he said was improper lobbying by Wang.
Actions speak louder than words, however, and the latest revelation concerning Cabinet members’ assets in China has the public doubting whether Ma can truly practice what he preaches.
On Wednesday it was revealed that Mongolian and Tibetan Commission Minister and Minister Without Portfolio Tsai Yu-ling (蔡玉玲), along with her husband, possess assets worth NT$100 million (US$3.37 million) in China.
Tsai is the nation’s highest official in affairs relating to Mongolia and Tibet, and the commission she heads serves as a platform to help other government agencies deal with such matters.
Given the obvious “China factor” involved in issues pertaining to Tibet, Tsai’s blatant failure to avoid a conflict of interest is beyond belief. Even more dumbfounding is that the Ma administration appears to see no problem with it.
On Wednesday Tsai said all the property she possesses in China is legally owned and that she has declared her assets to the Control Yuan.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that Tsai’s case poses no problem legally, while the Mainland Affairs Council, citing the Act Governing the Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例), said that the law does not forbid Taiwanese from owning property in China.
So much for Ma’s repeated calls for officials to heed public perception.
While it may be true that Tsai’s possession of assets in China is legal, the obvious conflict of interest has prompted many to wonder whether the commission, under Tsai’s lead, could effectively execute its mission and ensure the interests of Mongolians and Tibetans are met.
For example, would the commission be genuinely engaged in concrete actions to help exiled Tibetans and give support to human rights groups? Would Tsai dare to extend an invitation to Taiwan to the Dalai Lama? Would she dare to take part in a parade marking the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule or show concern for Tibetans who protest Chinese rule of Tibet through self-immolation? Would she be willing to get in touch with Tibetan exiles and the Tibetan government-in-exile and show concern for Tibetans’ struggle for freedom?
Or would Tsai, fearful of angering Beijing and putting her China-based assets at risk, choose to look the other way and ignore the relationship between Taiwan and the exiled Tibetan government? Worse, how could the Taiwanese public be certain that she would not in any way be compromised, becoming an accomplice to Beijing’s “united front” strategy or be held hostage by Beijing as a result of her assets in China?
The conflict of interest on Tsai’s part is not only out of sync with Ma’s statements about high moral standards, it poses a valid cause for concern.