One of the most reputation-ruining sights Taiwan can offer is a gangster funeral. Attended by hundreds of black-shirted young men and senior politicians from both ideological camps, these events prove that democratic accountability and social standards don't mean the same thing to all people.
What makes the funeral of Chen Chi-li (
He wasn't just a standover man taking protection money from street vendors; he was a tool of state oppression. But the revisionism in the print and broadcast media in recent weeks has portrayed this thug as close to heroic; a man who died in exile in Cambodia, far from family and friends. At the same time, no one weeps for the man he killed, Chiang Ching-kuo (
In the course of mourning Chen, the sight of a string of celebrities, ne'er-do-well politicians and retired security agency officials lining up to pay their dues played itself out. Of the former, pop singer Jay Chou (
But it is the politicians -- and their seniority -- that should be of enduring concern. How astonished and enraged Americans would be if House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the organizing committee for the funeral of a notorious mafia boss. Yet that is exactly what has happened here: Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (
The KMT, it seems, can't get by without cavorting with criminals.
But this is not a partisan cancer. Even more despicable is the presence on the honorary list of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus convener Ko Chien-ming (
Ko's presence is revolting because he trivializes the sacrifice of Henry Liu, who allowed people like him the freedom to represent the DPP.
This easy association with criminality continues to plague the legislature, too, with an attempt to restrict candidates for public office to people with no criminal record or a minor criminal record being defeated in recent days.
Both parties have acted shamefully and shamelessly on this matter. President Chen Shui-bian (
And Wang Jin-pyng deserves an equally strong rebuke for blithely dismissing this debacle as being worthy of any concern.
KMT politicians who attack the president and his family for alleged illegal conduct while saying and doing nothing about legislative misconduct are damned hypocrites. Likewise, DPP politicians that complain of judicial persecution of the president while saying and doing nothing about legislative mischief -- or its protection -- lack all credibility.
It is all too easy to say "a pox on all their houses" or some such, but the fact is that all of this behavior is tolerated by a large number of voters who will put any lowlife into office as long as it is not someone from the opposition. Thus continues this collapsible morality in the face of criminal connections to the political, security and entertainment establishments.