Former Examination Yuan president Hsu Shui-teh (許水德) once said: “The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) owns the courts.”
In view of the Control Yuan’s second failed motion on Tuesday to impeach Keelung Mayor Chang Tong-rong (張通榮) on a charge of coercing police officers over the detention of a suspect, a growing number of people are starting to wonder: Does the KMT own the Control Yuan, too?
On July 26, the Keelung District Court sentenced Chang, a member of the KMT, to one year and eight months in prison for influence-peddling by pressuring the police in September last year into releasing a woman who had allegedly assaulted and injured a policewoman while under the influence of alcohol.
When Control Yuan members met on July 5 and first deliberated the Chang case, after he had already been indicted by prosecutors, they voted 8-4 not to impeach. They said impeachment could be premature, as Chang’s case had not been judicially decided and that the vote should be held only if Chang were convicted.
Chang was convicted by the court in the first ruling, though he can still appeal this verdict, and is the nation’s first local government head to be ordered to perform community service. The Control Yuan’s two failed motions to impeach Chang infuriated many, including Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien (王建煊), who said yesterday that the branch might as well shut down because it is “unable to perform its purpose of serving justice.”
Indeed, the responsibility of the Control Yuan is to monitor the government’s actions and censure illegal or inappropriate behavior by public officials and agencies.
The alleged influence-peddling by Chang has left the general public with a very bad impression. Many — at least until Tuesday — harbored hope that the nation’s watchdog on public functionaries could and would perform its duty by appropriately reprimanding Chang.
What is the point of the Control Yuan’s existence if it can not even bring itself to correct an act of influence-peddling and coercion against police officials as glaring and flagrant as Chang’s? Could it be that, as its critics have claimed, the Control Yuan is a government branch that “only swats flies and does not fight tigers”?
Might Chang be considered a “tiger” in the eyes of the Control Yuan, as the Democratic Progressive Party asserts? Does the Control Yuan fear that impeaching him may jeopardize the KMT’s chances of winning next year’s Keelung mayoral election?
The Control Yuan members need to be reminded that they are supposed to be independent and beyond party control. They are on the taxpayers’ payroll, with each receiving a minister-level paycheck plus a government chauffeur.
Taiwan is a democracy where the spirit of the rule of law ought to be honored. Just as citizens are expected to be law-biding, the government needs to respect the law and the Constitution. It must carry out its duties in line with its job description, which calls for service to the public.
The failure to impeach Chang is exactly the kind of non-action and spineless attitude that inflicts self-harm on the government and erodes people’s trust and confidence.