Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators on Friday held a news conference calling on the government to withdraw its nominations of three Council of Grand Justices candidates.
The legislators raised doubts about National Chiayi University professor Hsu Chih-hsiung (許志雄), National Taiwan University (NTU) professor and former grand justice Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力), and NTU professor Hwang Jau-yuan (黃昭元).
At a legislative review of the grand justice nominees on Monday, Hsu Chih-hsiung said that Taiwan and China are sovereign states, while the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution, formulated in China, is out of touch with Taiwanese society.
In July, Hwang urged the government to replace the national title “ROC” with “Taiwan” in diplomatic settings, and suggested the ROC was essentially little more than a trigger for nostalgic reverie. The KMT legislators also questioned the constitutionality of reappointing Hsu Tzong-li.
For the KMT legislators, it was the nominees’ failure to identify with the ROC that disqualified them for the council positions.
Of course, this is all just the rough and tumble of politics. However, the choice of grand justices, or of their values and their records in office, is about more than the implications for Taiwan’s future. It is also about Taiwan’s recent history, and about the public’s lack of trust in the judiciary because of the latter’s perceived collusion with the KMT during the authoritarian era and the years that followed.
During his own legislative review on Tuesday, Hwang said: “Democracy has been practiced in Taiwan for years, and we should already have left that [authoritarian] era behind.”
Yes, it should have been left behind, but it has not. Democracy is a difficult skill to master. It takes more than a few years of practice.
The nomination process has already brought up the ghost of the judiciary’s past. President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) nomination of Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission Chief Commissioner Hsieh Wen-ting (謝文定) as the president of the Judicial Yuan was controversial, as Hsieh was a lead prosecutor in several cases during the White Terror era.
On Thursday, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said in a speech at the launch of the 228 Incident and International Human Rights Exhibition in Taipei that not enough has been done to hold the perpetrators of the Incident responsible.
The day before that, it was reported that the government was considering granting former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) a special pardon for his conviction in what many still believe was a case of political persecution brought about by the judiciary on behalf of then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), within days of Ma succeeding Chen in 2008.
Ma has also been summoned to appear on Nov. 8 on charges of leaking state secrets and of soliciting former prosecutor-general Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) to disclose secret information in late 2013.
The KMT is currently locked in a legal battle with the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee, which it says is preventing it from carrying out its statutory right to pay its staff by freezing accounts holding funds stolen from the nation during the authoritarian period. Although democracy has, indeed, been practiced in Taiwan for many years, military personnel — “military instructors” — are still stationed on school and university campuses.
There is much to be addressed in Taiwan’s past before this nation can move forward united and with confidence. These issues were mentioned in the news media this week. They remain contentious issues, and the grand justices will likely be asked to comment on them during their terms.
It is unsurprising that the KMT is fighting to ensure a favorable makeup of the court.
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