A senior US State Department official on Tuesday praised Taiwan's handling of the multiple scandals afflicting the nation, calling it a sign of the strength of Taiwan's democracy.
"I think it's a good thing whenever a system is in place that allows for legal, peaceful processing of divisive issues," Thomas Christensen, the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia specializing in Taiwan and China policy told reporters in Washington.
"This is a good sign for Taiwan's democracy, that they have a legal system that works through standard procedures, and that they have investigations and they have court proceedings, and that the political system remains stable," Christensen said in response to reporters' questions before he sat down at a US-Taiwan Business Council luncheon.
The US government had previously refused to comment publicly on the corruption and other scandals that seem to erupt in Taiwan on a daily basis. The reason for US officials' reticence, Christensen said, was that "we have tremendous respect for Taiwan's system and the rule of law, and we expect that Taiwan authorities will deal with any potential problems they have on the legal front."
Conceding that corruption or allegations of corruption were not "in and of themselves a good thing," he added that "the real test of democracy, the real test of the rule of law, is when there are problems, and there are issues to be dealt with, they are dealt with in a smooth fashion that fits in with the Constitution and fits in with the legal practices in place."
Christensen's comments were the most specific yet made by a US government official on the series of corruption and financial scandals that have hit Taiwan in recent months.
They went farther than the terse, formal comments that US State Department spokespersons have made at their regular daily briefings in response to reporters' questions over the past several weeks.
Christensen skirted a question about whether the scandals had soured government and public opinion about Taiwan, preferring to stress the positive aspect of the workings of the legal and political system.
His comments contrasted with the more negative aspects of reports that have appeared in major newspapers in recent weeks, which have highlighted the indictment of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) and Prosecutor Eric Chen's (陳瑞仁) expressed opinion that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) could be subject to similar corruption charges if he were not protected by the immunity afforded by his office.
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