My elder brother, Robert Lee (李席舟), returned from the US to vote in the Nov. 29 elections. Before polling day, he took the opportunity to visit former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in Taichung Prison. Robert noticed that while Chen was talking, his hands were shaking and he was wetting himself. He said it was hard to bear such a sorry sight.
Even if Chen has done some things wrong, is it really necessary to treat a former president in such a manner? No convicted former head of state anywhere in the world has ever been tormented like this. Never mind that medical specialists from Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taichung Veterans General Hospital and many others have been recommending for a long time that Chen should be given medical parole.
However, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) remains unmoved. When he is dealing with corporate bosses or the Chinese government, Ma is as meek and gentle as a lamb, but when it comes to keeping Chen in jail, he has a will of steel and a heart of stone. Will Chen ever get out of prison? A word from Ma could make it happen.
The heavy defeat that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) suffered in the elections was a vote of no-confidence in Ma’s administration and the China-friendly and corporate-friendly policies that it has been pursuing over the last few years. Citizens used their ballot to strike back against the KMT’s politico-corporate complex and settle accounts for sore points like soaring gasoline and electricity prices, a cross-strait service trade agreement that was negotiated behind closed doors and the adulterated cooking oil scandals.
Now that the KMT has lost so badly, Ma is calling for reforms, but, just like the question of Chen’s release from jail, whether reforms will actually happen depends on what Ma decides. Is he going to go on doing as he thinks fit, or will he start respecting public opinion?
The issue of whether Chen should be released can be taken as a litmus test of Ma’s state of mind, and it can answer the question of whether he will respect public opinion and get serious about reform.
Two years ago, I wrote an article in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) analyzing the psychology that drives Ma to keep tormenting Chen. I wrote then that Ma’s mentality is one of loathing and vengeance. I went on to apply psychoanalytical theory to explain that Ma’s torment of Chen is a kind of psychological projection. He is projecting his own corruption, or that of his party, onto Chen.
Jailing and tormenting Chen is a way of washing away the stains on his own record and that of his party while spattering those stains onto his opponents.
What other reasons might Ma have for not releasing Chen? Is it in order to fight corruption? That pretext has already been exposed as fraudulent.
Close associates handpicked by Ma to work alongside him, such as former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) and former Taipei city councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如), have both been revealed to be experts at soliciting bribes. How much more corrupt can you get? There have been countless corruption cases in KMT-ruled cities and counties.
Are those responsible not all people whom Ma had previously endorsed? What about all the politicians and businesspeople who have stripped Taiwan of assets to the tune of hundreds of billions of New Taiwan dollars, but remain at large, as free as a bird? Are they not mostly important associates of the KMT? Is the adulterated cooking oil churned out by the KMT’s politico-corporate complex not an exemplary product of greed and corruption?
Chen’s case pales in comparison. He and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), got their money from big business, not from the national treasury. Besides, he has been found not guilty in four cases.
The only case in which he is currently considered to be guilty is one in which judges were replaced while the trial was going on and perjury was involved on the part of an important witness — former Chinatrust Financial Holding Co vice chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒).
This is not to say that it was morally acceptable for Chen and Wu to deposit political donations in their son’s overseas bank account. Far from it, but Ma needs to explain why he has been so tolerant about the countless cases of corruption involving his own party. Why are the likes of Lin and Lai still at large to this day? If Ma can tolerate that, how can he have the nerve to refuse to give Chen parole on the grounds of “fighting corruption?”
Is not releasing Chen a matter of respecting public opinion? Do the recent election results not show that deep-blue voters who might want to see Chen locked up forever are in the minority? Are all deep-blue supporters really against letting Chen out on medical parole? Is Ma sure that the deep-blues are all that hardhearted?
Even though some of them may be dead set against giving Chen parole, do those diehards deserve more respect than the majority of the public that thinks otherwise? Now, even prominent figures from the pan-blue camp, such as Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Broadcasting Corp of China chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) have spoken out in favor of Chen getting medical parole. Evidently, the sticking point is Ma’s attitude.
Releasing Chen would not cost anything, and it would help to break down the conflict between the pan-blue and pan-green political camps. It all depends on whether Ma can get over his mental block. Can Ma really bring about reform? Let him start by setting aside the mental block that has been keeping Chen locked up in jail.
Lee Hsiao-feng is a professor at the National Taipei University of Education Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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
Midday in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 16, was sunny and mild. Even with the pandemic’s “social distancing” it was a perfect day for “al fresco” dining with linen tablecloths and sidewalk potted palms outside one of New York City’s elegant restaurants. Two members of the press, outfitted with digital SLR cameras and voice recorders, were dispatched by The Associated Press to cover a rare outdoor diplomatic meeting on one of these New York streets. American diplomat Kelly Craft, Chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations, lunched in the open air with Taiwan’s ambassador-ranked representative in New York, James