Dear President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九):
We the undersigned, academics and writers from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, are writing to you to express our concerns about a recent new development: the charges by your government that 17 former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials violated the National Archives Act (國家檔案法) and two other laws by “failing to return” about 36,000 documents during the DPP administration.
According to a statement by your government on March 29, the case is currently being investigated by the Control Yuan, which indicated that criminal charges might be lodged as well. Those being investigated include DPP luminaries such as former secretary-general of the presidential office and minister of transportation Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), former secretary-general and foreign minister Mark Chen (陳唐山), former deputy -secretary--general and ambassador to Washington Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), former deputy secretary-general and foreign minister Eugene Chien (簡又新) and former -secretary-general and prime minister Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
We are disquieted by the timing of this announcement. If any documents had been “missing,” this should have been noted during the transition period between the DPP administration and your government in 2008. To come up with this matter three years later, when the primaries for next year’s presidential elections are underway, suggests a political motive.
Moreover, the announcement of the “missing documents” came one day before Su declared his candidacy in the DPP presidential primary. Su will undoubtedly play an important role in the upcoming presidential elections, either as a candidate himself or as a supporter of the eventual candidate. Announcing an investigation of him and the others at this time certainly gives the impression of a political ploy intended to discredit the DPP and its candidates.
In any government organization, after documents are seen and reviewed by high officials, they are processed and filed by lower-level officials. These generally are civil servants, who do not change in the transition from DPP to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administrations. In Taiwan’s regulation-governed bureaucracy, they will not easily deviate from the established rules for handling of documents.
As observers of political developments in Taiwan for many decades, we believe that these charges are politically motivated. Obviously, in a democracy there is a need to uphold the law, but this needs to be done fairly and evenhandedly, without any hint of abuse of power. In our view, this move by your government is seriously lacking on both counts. It appears to be an attempt to use the Control Yuan and judicial system for political ends, in an effort to appear “legal” and avoid criticism by foreign governments and human rights groups.
We therefore urge you and your government to sustain Taiwan’s democracy at the highest levels and refrain from using the judicial system for political purposes. The Taiwanese worked hard to make the transition to democracy only 20 years ago. They deserve to have leaders who play by rules that are fair, balanced and unbiased.
Signed: Nat Bellocchi, Coen Blaauw, Jean Pierre Cabestan, Gordon Chang, Ketty Chen, Peter Chow, Stephane Corcuff, Michael Danielsen, June Teufel Dreyer, Norman Getsinger, Terri Giles, Michael Rand Hoare, Christopher Hughes, Thomas Hughes, Bruce Jacobs, Richard Kagan, Jerome Keating, David Kilgour, Andre Laliberte, Daniel Lynch, Victor Mair, Bruce McLeod, Donald Rodgers, Terence Russell, Christian Schafferer, David Schak, Michael Stainton, Peter Tague, Ross Terrill, John Tkacik Jr, Arthur Waldron, Gerrit van der Wees, Michael Yahuda and Stephen Yates.