Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) looks like such a nice man, but he has inherited his family’s ruthlessness in protecting their political skin at all costs. It is the swing of the axe, culling all but themselves and their superiors, and showing absolutely no mercy.
However, the urgency with which he reached for his axe, and the way he has caught his own father, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) in his swing, carries with it a whiff of desperation.
Former Taoyuan County deputy commissioner Yeh Shih-wen (葉世文) has long been known for his love of the good life and been suspected of dodgy dealings. Despite having been asked to resign from his previous position, he still came “highly recommended” to the post of deputy commissioner. Recently, he was allegedly caught red-handed carting off a holdall stuffed with cash.
When former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) wanted to transform the KMT to make it more local, those in the party reluctant to follow suit, those wanting to protect their vested interests, accused him of bringing in corruption.
The KMT that returned to power under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has made a bit of a specialty out of corruption, as even Ma’s loyalists would have to admit. The party did all it could to slam down the lid on a corruption case involving former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世), and it is trying to do the same with Yeh’s case.
The ruthlessness with which John Wu has wielded his axe he inherited from his father and grandfather. We have seen it in three generations of the Wu clan. The grandfather, Wu Hung-lin (吳鴻麟) — who also served as Taoyuan County commissioner — distanced himself from his brother, Wu Hung-chi (吳鴻麒), who was murdered in the 228 Massacre, and Wu Poh-hsiung distanced himself both from his uncle and the massacre itself. Three generations of the Wu family have protected the KMT and hogged control of the county.
John Wu’s axe indiscriminately culled those officials who had served under Yeh. He limited his own responsibility by stating that he had “misjudged” Yeh, and only now realized the error of his “oversight,” subtly heaping the blame on those souls who had recommended Yeh for the job in the first place.
Keen to save his own political skin, John Wu has made a point of prioritizing doing the right thing over family loyalty, and has even distanced himself from his own father. Despite saying that his father had nothing to do with recommending Yeh for the position, John Wu struck him from his list of political advisers. His attempts to orchestrate a cover-up could hardly be more transparent.
John Wu, apparently concerned that the old ways are no longer sufficient, seems to have been inspired by the teachings of Dharma master Shengyen (聖嚴法師), whose “proposition for resolving the difficulties of life” is to face it, accept it, deal with it and then let it go. He also held up a crucifix a supporter had sent him, the allusion not being lost on anyone: Like Jesus, John Wu was betrayed by a trusted apostle.
However, religion is no answer to the real legal issues. In order to protect a corrupt government John Wu is willing to brush aside his legal responsibility, acting without investigating the root causes of the problem and openly making insinuations about KMT colleagues who have absolutely nothing to do with the allegations surrounding Yeh.
Emotive appeals, distancing themselves from others, covering up, culling junior officials while protecting senior ones and the government ... no matter how ruthless the Wu dynasty or the KMT it serves are, they will never be able to distance themselves from rampant corruption.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Paul Cooper