Thu, Sep 19, 2013 - Page 8

Human rights violations

Taiwan has been going through a political crisis this month. The Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada (THRAC) is concerned by the human rights violations and constitutional illegalities committed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration which have precipitated this crisis. Three concerns are:

First, the illegal and questionable actions of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID). On Sept. 6, the SID said that in late June, a wiretap on Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) had provided evidence of improper lobbying by Legislative Speaker Yuan Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), former minister of justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) and High Prosecutors’ Office Head Prosecutor Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌) on behalf of Ker.

On Aug. 31, Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) reported the wiretap privately to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) “because of its massive political ramifications.”

By reporting to the president and then releasing the transcript at a press conference — without laying any charges — the SID grossly violated laws requiring nondisclosure of its investigations and has confirmed suspicions that it is a political tool of the KMT. There are also questions about the legality and propriety of the wiretap.

THRAC commends the senior legal academics and the Law Times newspaper for initiating a lawsuit against the SID and calls on the legislature to abolish this tainted inquisitorial office altogether.

Second, the unconstitutional actions committed by Ma. The president accepted the disclosure from the SID and, on Sept. 8, he held a press conference at which he condemned Wang.

“If this was not improper influence, then what is?” he said.

These actions constituted (to use his words) “improper influence at the highest level,” abuse of the office of president and violation of the separation of powers fundamental to a democracy. Ma then acted in his capacity as KMT chairman to have Wang’s party membership suspended and remove him as a legislator-at-large.

This confusion of Ma’s two roles as president and party chairman looks like a return to the old party-state practices of the KMT.

Third, contempt of the legislature. By using an internal KMT party process to remove its speaker, Ma has seriously violated the rights of the legislature. The speaker of the legislature is elected by its members. The legislature oversees the president. Now Ma has used his power as party chairman to become the overseer of the legislature. This has serious implications for KMT proportional vote legislators who must worry about a party chairman who can remove them so easily.

The amalgam of questionable, illegal and unconstitutional actions in this crisis involves violations of human rights, the Constitution and legal process. THRAC strongly condemns the actions of the SID and of Ma in this matter. His actions threaten to bring the very legitimacy of his presidency into question.

If the political system cannot address such abuse of power, then the public needs to affirm their sovereignty and defend their rights through the peaceful exercise of direct democracy.

Michael Stainton

President of the Taiwanese Human Rights association of Canada

YouBikes are dangerous

Health warning: Taipei’s rental bikes, the YouBikes, are hazardous to the health.

For convenience, health and the environment, I recently began to use YouBikes. Since Taipei has almost no infrastructure for safe and convenient bike riding (“Wonderful Copenhagen,” Dec. 7, 2010, page 8), I mostly use the sidewalks, weaving my way through pedestrians, other cyclists and the many parked scooters.

It was all going well, but then it rained. Within a minute, I found that the wheels of the YouBikes are so smooth that they are only functional in dry weather and become as slippery as algal slime in the wet. After a bad tumble resulting in an open wound, I almost fell twice more until I resorted to pushing the YouBike back to its stand.

It is difficult to fathom why the bicycle’s makers would be so careless as to use slippery wheels, which are a health hazard given Taipei’s frequently rainy weather.

This is in line with the government’s continued failure to properly deal with environmental issues (“Fig leaf environmentalism,” June 11, 2012, page 8). Whether it is the government’s failure to protect water resources adequately (“Reservoir land laws changed,” Sept. 13, page 3), to protect citizens from corporations (“Activists protest Mailiao cracker expansion,” Sept. 5, page 3) or flooding due to bad land use policies and strengthening global warming (“Care needed with development,” Sept. 5, page 8), the utter uselessness of the Ma government in all matters environmental is on display again.

Thank God the courts at least protect us from the worst excesses of the government and corporate-sponsored assaults on our environmental well-being (“Court rules in favor of professor in Formosa lawsuit,” Sept. 5, page 3, and “Environmentalists hail ‘Tambei’ ruling,” Sept. 5, page 1).

Whether it is small issues like YouBike wheels or the ludicrous anti-idling law, or big issues like traffic policies, pollution control or land development, one can only conclude that there is a band of bureaucratic dilettantes with neither a grasp on reality nor any scientific background. These paper pushers are probably more concerned with their careers and pensions than with protecting and improving the lives of ordinary citizens.

YouBikes and the Ma government are hazardous to your health.

Flora Faun