Former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) once told former American Institute in Taiwan director Stephen Young that Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was a rigid legalist and that if one wanted to understand the president’s behavior and actions, all they needed do is look at what the law says. However, this gives Ma too much credit — the only law he lives by is: “I am the law.”
The president focuses only on his own interests and interprets the law selectively to suit his purposes.
As such, it is only natural that he would shamelessly interpret the law to justify the embezzlement of public funds in the abuse of special allowance case against him when he was Taipei mayor, as well as ignore the Supreme Court’s decision by refusing to pay the Taipei City Government’s debt to the National Health Insurance — also during his term as Taipei mayor.
Ma has also reinterpreted the law to claim that his US green card had been automatically invalidated and to bring about political chaos by violating the Constitution while conspiring to unseat Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) during late-night meetings in his official residence.
His interpretation of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution — a constitution for a government-in-exile — is even more arbitrary.
During the debates over constitutional changes that took place in the 1990s, the president went against the mainstream to claim that instituting direct presidential elections would be tantamount to bringing about Taiwanese independence. However, after being elected president in direct polls, Ma has interpreted the Constitution to mean that the territory of the ROC includes China and that cross-strait relations constitute neither state-to-state relations, nor international relations.
The rotten ROC Constitution does not itemize the country’s territories and when it was written, Taiwan proper and the Penghu archipelago were still occupied by the Allied forces.
Yet Ma is still talking in his sleep about the ROC’s territory extending not only to Taiwan proper and the Penghu archipelago, but to all China. What kind of legalist interpretation is that? How many Taiwanese would agree with that view?
The Chinese are just as preposterous as Ma. Just like the ROC Constitution, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) does not itemize the country’s territories, but despite that, the preamble names Taiwan as part of China’s “sacred territory.”
However, if China’s territory is so sacred, one wonders how former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) could sign away 1.6 million km2 of territory in with the stroke of a pen in the 1991 Sino-Soviet Border Agreement.
Neither of these constitutions defines their countries’ respective territories, but they do define what it means to be a “citizen” of that nation.
Article 3 of the ROC Constitution states that: “Persons possessing the nationality of the Republic of China shall be citizens of the Republic of China,” while Article 33 of the PRC Constitution stipulates that: “All persons holding the nationality of the People’s Republic of China are citizens of the People’s Republic of China.”
This makes it clear that the citizens of the two countries are independent of one other.
If Ma really is a legal dogmatic, he cannot ignore Article 2 of the ROC Constitution, which says: “The sovereignty of the Republic of China shall reside in the whole body of citizens.”
Despite this, the 23 million people that possess ROC citizenship and who were born and brought up in Taiwan have not been affected by Ma’s paranoia.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Perry Svensson