Hung cover-up costs Ma, judiciary

By Paul Lin 林保華  / 

Sun, Aug 04, 2013 - Page 8

It has already been a month since army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) died after being subjected to excessive disciplinary measures, but the truth behind his death has yet to be revealed. Evidently, Taiwan is already under the control of dark forces, and even in this case, which involved the loss of a human life, it seems that little justice is to be had.

Who is obstructing the truth? On the one hand, there are those who are directly involved in the case, and on the other are those who, while not actually involved, stand to have their careers affected by any revelations. The former group consists of a few individuals, the latter is a cabal extending all the way from senior officers in the military to the president himself. These people are one huge interest group and the main reason that the truth is difficult to get to.

That the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office is cooperating in the investigation is little reason for confidence given the track record of Taiwan’s judiciary. This is officialdom closing ranks on an even grander scale.

If the authorities had ever intended to get at the truth, as Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said, they should have, right from the beginning, interviewed the people involved separately. Then they would have been able to get to the bottom of it all straight away. The CCTV footage could have been used as evidence and, even if the surveillance cameras had been on the blink at the time, witness testimony would have been sufficient.

When the judiciary in Taiwan has decided to cover for a certain interest group, its weapon of choice is delaying the investigation, allowing the scene of the crime to be compromised, and giving enough time to people involved to collude and to destroy evidence.

On his SET-TV news program, journalist Huang Yueh-hung (黃越宏) pressed chief military prosecutor Major General Tsao Chin-sheng (曹金生) on when exactly they had decided to begin investigating personnel. Tsao would not say. It is difficult to know whether his intransigence was his own response, or whether he was acting on instructions from his superiors.

This covering-up does not only apply to the Hung case. In last year’s corruption case involving former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世), the investigation proceeded in much the same way. The judiciary’s delaying tactic was to apply pressure to the plaintiffs and to choose not to investigate unless there was irrefutable evidence. It went as far as to intimidate the plaintiffs to ensure they kept their mouths shut.

This is what happened to Chen Chi-hsiang (陳啟祥), who was said to have bribed Lin. It happened to Democratic Progressive Party Central Executive Committee member Hung Chih-kune (洪智坤) when Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) became caught up in the investigation.

This also happened in the initial stages of the current investigation with discharged soldier Liu Hsuan-yang (劉烜揚).

Dragging out the investigation gave the people involved in the Lin corruption investigation time to collude and destroy the evidence. They were let off lightly with no chance of pursuing other people involved.

Officials familiar with the KMT’s political culture are good at knowing how to read situations and people: They know what President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is thinking and what it is they should do.

Compare these officials to Ma who, talking about impeaching former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), controversially said “the gun is loaded and ready, it’s just a matter of when to pull the trigger, and Chen is going to die horribly.” Ma likes to trot out the adage “do not wrongly accuse the innocent, and do not tolerate the guilty” — the emphasis being on the first part, which he only seems to want to apply when criminal prosecutions are brought against his own people.

If Ma was truly as clean and committed to justice as he says he is, he should have acted the minute the Hung story broke, and made sure those involved could not collude or destroy the evidence. This is how he could have demonstrated his resolve, and made criminals think twice before acting.

The government’s penchant for opaque governance is the result of the incomplete dismantling of the authoritarian system under which Taiwan previously labored.

Why insist on this lack of transparency?

Look no further than Confucius (孔子), who said: “The people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it.”

The longer the cover-up continues, the more Ma’s image, and that of his government, suffers. Three-quarters of the public say they have no faith in the military investigation.

After Transparency International released its Global Corruption Barometer findings, announcing Taiwan’s poor global ranking, a poll conducted by the Apple Daily soon after found that 41 percent of respondents believed the judiciary to be the most corrupt part of the government.

It is difficult to see how the judiciary and the military are going to win back the trust of the general public.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Paul Cooper