Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Fairness in judiciary essential to democracy

By Mark Kao 高龍榮

On Dec. 5, the Supreme Court handed down a guilty verdict in the long-running court case against former minister of transportation and communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪), who served in 2006 under then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Kuo has a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of London.

In 2008, in the early years of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, she and many other former DPP officials were accused of corruption and charged.

In some cases, such as that of former president Chen, this led to conviction and imprisonment.

However, the trial and treatment of the former president had clear political overtones. In contrast, many other trials led to acquittal.

In Kuo’s case, legal proceedings dragged on for years. In her first and second trials in 2009 and 2010, before the Taipei District Court and by the Taiwan High Court respectively, she was declared not guilty.

Prosecutors continued to appeal, and in two retrials before the Taiwan High Court, in 2011 and in a second this year, she was found guilty.

The case against her, however, was based on the testimony of a single witness, Lee Tsung-hsien (李宗賢), son of Lee Ching-po (李清波), who is the chairman of Nan Ren Hu Group, a large industrial conglomerate with close connections to the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Lee Tsung-hsien had initially testified on behalf of his father that he had delivered the equivalent of US$20,000 in cash packed in two iron tea boxes to the then-minister.

However, he later revoked his testimony, and during a raid on the former minister’s home, prosecutors did not find any tea boxes or cash.

The accusation against former minister Kuo that she took money from the Nan Ren Hu chairman is highly peculiar, as Nan Ren Hu did not bid for government procurement during that period.

The conclusion by the High Court and Supreme Court that there was a quid pro quo relationship is even more astounding.

The political bias of the courts is evident, as Kuo has now been convicted of accepting an amount equivalent to US$20,000, while in the case of the former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世), the courts mysteriously dropped the corruption charges despite prosecutors having seized large amounts of cash from Lin’s home.

Lin had been charged with bribery in the amount of at least US$2.1 million, which is more than 100 times the amount that Kuo allegedly accepted.

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs is convinced that this is yet another case of judicial system abuse by the Ma administration: Going after members of the previous DPP administration of former president Chen while whitewashing serious crimes within its own ranks.

We have documented about 48 cases against former and current DPP officials that can be considered political persecution.

As Taiwanese-Americans, we appeal to the government and Congress of the US to express their concern about this erosion of justice and lack of fairness in Taiwan’s judicial system.

Taiwan can only be a strong democracy if its judicial institutions adhere to the basic principles of fairness and due process of law.

Mark Kao is president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a Taiwanese-American grassroots organization based in Washington.

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