Fri, Nov 07, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Society has to join fight to eliminate despotism

By Andrew Cheng 鄭泰安

When the media revealed that prosecutors were pressing for a custodial sentence of 30 years for former Cheng I Food Co (正義股份) and Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial (頂新製油實業) chairman Wei Ying-chun (魏應充), Tan Tun-tsu (譚敦慈), the widow of renowned toxicology expert Lin Chieh-liang (林杰樑), immediately said she held them in “the greatest respect.”

The news was a source of happiness for Tan, but was it a little early to bring out the bunting? Perhaps she has never heard that in a first trial, a heavy sentence is passed; at a second trial the sentence is halved; and at a third trial “they eat pig’s trotters noodles.”

In Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), “pig’s trotters noodles” sounds like a phrase meaning “thrown out of court.”

People have terrible memories, but if they analyzed the fate of the government officials, and influential and unscrupulous businesspeople who have come up before a judge over the years, they would be dismayed.

Unscrupulous businesspeople who gain too much influence over policy are becoming increasingly brazen. Tax evasion is small potatoes nowadays. Over the past few years, society has witnessed increasing collusion between politics and big business. Businesses have overseen the progressive pollution of the environment, the destruction of land and water resources, and the tainting of food. If the nation cannot safeguard its right to health and a clean environment, it is in trouble. How can people live a healthy life when the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat is impure? How can people remain silent?

People have to protest, force corrupt officials to resign, chase out unscrupulous politicians and demand that the courts hand out heavy punishments and confiscate ill-gotten profits. Will society just keep existing in this state of unease?

Civil liberties are not working. They cannot ensure adequate oversight of corrupt judges, unscrupulous businesspeople and elected representatives who do not care about the people they represent. How serious is this? How many politicians from across party lines are in the pockets of big business?

Ordinary people have to support groups that still have credibility, encouraging them to monitor government officials, businesspeople, political parties and elected politicians.

The mindset of keeping to yourself and not minding other people’s business remains ubiquitous. Most people would like it if somebody else fought on their behalf so they could keep their heads down and noses clean. The Sunflower movement represented a break from this, a new generation starting to challenge this mindset. The movement represents the nation’s hope.

Political and financial dynasties, dubious power brokers and the connections between them cannot be ignored. For example, only 1 percent of Ting Hsin Group’s capital resides in Taiwan, the other 99 percent being in China, according to media reports. The government, political parties and lawmakers have a responsibility to tell the public whether this is accurate.

Feudalism and Marxism have proved a fatally volatile mix. China is still essentially a feudal society and it has plans to annex Taiwan. If the rich and powerful of both nations — not “both sides of the Taiwan Strait” — unite to make this happen, should Taiwanese not be alarmed? Has society not seen the true colors of Chinese authorities in how they dealt with the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong?

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