A prominent Taiwanese-American organization on Friday accused the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration of eroding Taiwan’s democracy during his term, and charged it with conducting a spate of “politically inspired” arrests of opposition leaders over the past two weeks.
The organization, the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) based in Washington, asked the US government to express its concern over what it called the “deterioration of human rights and democracy in Taiwan” under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration of Ma.
In its biting statement, FAPA, a leading pro-green lobbying group, also recalled the days of martial law “White Terror” under earlier KMT rule.
The arrests — coming just before a visit from China’s top cross-strait negotiator, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) — have resulted in the detention of four Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians and the indictment of a fifth on charges ranging from corruption and embezzlement to assault.
The latest case involved former National Security Council secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), who was detained on Friday on suspicion of embezzling US$500,000 from a diplomatic fund.
Chiou, who is also a former deputy premier, was considered in Washington to be one of the prime diplomatic and political liaisons between the administrations of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and US President George W. Bush through much of the Chen administration.
His detention came within days of other indictments and detentions. Tainan City Councilor Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) was indicted in connection with a melee in which visiting ARATS Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing (張銘清) fell to the ground during a visit to Tainan in advance of Chen’s trip. DPP Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and former environmental protection minister James Lee (李界木) were both detained.
Complaining about the Ma administration’s legal action against those four officials, FAPA also cited the Oct. 15 arrest of former interior minister Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) in Kaohsiung on corruption charges.
In a statement, FAPA president Bob Yang (楊英育) called the prosecutions unfair and a violation of the officials’ basic rights.
“We also question the fairness of the procedures: While one or two of the accused have been formally charged, the majority are being held incommunicado and without charge,” he said.
“This is a severe contravention of the writ of habeas corpus and a basic violation of due process, justice and the rule of law. In the meantime, the prosecutor’s offices leak detrimental information to the press. This kind of ‘trial by press’ is unacceptable,” Yang said.
In urging the US government and Congress to express “their deep concern” over the situation, Yang said, “the present cases endanger the progress made during the 21 years since the end of the Kuomintang’s [KMT] martial law in 1987. As members of the Taiwanese-American community, we believe that a return to the KMT’s ‘White Terror’ days of 1945 to 1987 should be avoided at all cost.”
Yesterday in Taipei, former vice-president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) also condemned the government for its detention of Chiou and other aides of the former president, calling the detentions a violation of human rights.
“I’ve not seen such large-scale detainments since the Kaohsiung Incident. It seems like the prosecutors detained people before finding any evidence, and I feel disturbed by such a procedure,” she said.