Wed, Aug 10, 2016 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Doing the right thing

Antonio Chiang (江春男) yesterday did the right thing by tendering his resignation as the nation’s representative to Singapore and apologizing for embarrassing the government after being cited for drunk driving.

It was an ignominious coda to a storied career as an investigative journalist; publisher of the political weekly The Journalist in the final years of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) authoritarian era and one of the main “go-to people” for foreign reporters and other visitors seeking an unvarnished view of the goings-on in the Republic of China; the first editor-in-chief of the Taipei Times; deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council in then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) first administration; and political columnist for the Chinese-language Apple Daily on political affairs.

However, a Breathalyzer test showed Chiang had an estimated blood alcohol content of 0.27 milligrams per liter (mg/L), which, under the revisions to the Criminal Code that took effect in June 2013, could have landed him a two-year jail term for having a breath alcohol content exceeding 0.25mg/L.

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Monday said it had suspended the pending indictment of Chiang, 72, on charges of endangering public safety for a year and instead fined him NT$60,000 for drunk driving, because he had shown remorse and no one was injured in the incident.

Since the changes implemented in 2013, Taiwan has one of the world’s toughest drunk-driving laws, which has helped reduce the annual death toll from traffic incidents. Changes to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ traffic safety enforcement regulations that took effect at the same time stipulate that drivers who are caught with a breath alcohol content of between 15mg/L — the legal limit — and 25mg/L face fines or loss of their license, but not prosecution.

While some might think that, despite giving up a plum diplomatic assignment, Chiang is still getting away with a slap on the wrist, neither the ministry nor the government need another scandal about unfit envoys on their hands in the wake of some high-profile cases in the past decade.

While the case of then-government information office employee Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英) — who penned several less-than-flattering blog postings about Taiwan and Taiwanese while working as the acting director of the information division at the nation’s representative office in Toronto in 2009 — might not have affected Taiwan-Canada relations, it certainly created a domestic scandal.

Former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government found itself hard-pressed to defend paying an employee who wrote that “[China] should spend many years suppressing [people in Taiwan] instead of granting them any political freedom once it has taken Taiwan by force.”

Two years later, the government faced a much more difficult situation with the case of Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), who was arrested by FBI agents on charges of labor contract fraud and the mistreatment of two Filipino housekeepers while she was serving as director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, Missouri. Liu was convicted in the US before returning to Taipei in February 2012, and that July the Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission suspended her from duties for two years for contravening the Civil Servant Services Act (公務員服務法) and seriously sullying the nation’s reputation.

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