EDITORIAL: Bringing out the whipping boy

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 - Page 8

Just when you thought the government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had done all it can to discredit and besmirch the reputation of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), out comes a new story in which the Ministry of Justice is considering stripping Chen of an honorary medal he received as president.

The Presidential Office says the ministry is mulling the legalities involved with stripping the imprisoned ex-president of the Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon, the Republic of China’s equivalent of the US Medal of Honor, and which is given solely to incumbent presidents or bestowed on heads of state of diplomatic allies.

Chen is down, and like a schoolyard bully, Ma wants to kick him. He wants to continue to rub Chen’s fall from power in his face, as much as he can, for as long as he can, until the former president is broken mentally and physically. These constant prosecutions and moves to discredit anything Chen or his family has ever done constitute a form of slow torture.

The Presidential Office says it is acting on behalf of the public, which wants the medal retrieved from Chen because he is now in prison. However, this is a lame excuse that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Ma government can use anytime they want to do something in their own interest — all they must do is gesture to the mob and say it is the will of the public, before they go about their own business.

The truth is that the Ma government is unpopular — its policies are weak and even its friends are losing their motivation to support it. Ma’s poll ratings are so low that it is doubtful he would be able to beat even the most junior Democratic Progressive Party official in an election at this point.

However, when Ma feels the heat, he always has his favorite whipping boy to turn to — just wheel out the big bad Chen and make a further example of him for the public to gawk at, and all will be well, right, Ma?

The problem is, the public is a lot smarter than Ma gives it credit for. People realize the government is using Chen to distract attention away from its own inept policies and corruption scandals. They realize Ma and the KMT have a vendetta against Chen and will likely not stop until the former president dies in jail. They realize that this government is just as dirty as any that has sat in the Presidential Office. The public has only to look at disgraced former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世), and the slow pace at which prosecutors are looking into his case, and they can realize that this is just the tip of the Ma government’s corrupt iceberg.

However, the worst thing about this latest case of Chen bashing is just how petty it is. Ma is unable to find more cases of possible corruption involving Chen, Chen’s family, Chen’s former officials or Chen’s friends, so he had to resort to something as small-minded as stripping him of former honors. What next? Will Ma now turn to Chen’s elementary school report cards and tell the public that he cheated on his exams? Will Ma seek to have Chen’s high-school graduation annulled?

However, it is all for nothing, because no matter how hard Ma works to make Chen look bad, the former president will never look as bad as Ma.