The Harvard Law School mentor of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that his former student needed to act urgently to prevent an “increasingly disturbing circus atmosphere” from prejudicing his predecessor's right to a fair trial.
Jerome Cohen's comments to The Associated Press follow last week's biting skit that mocked former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), performed by prosecutors at a dinner celebrating “Law Day,” which was attended by Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), judges and other members of the legal community.
The skit made fun of Chen at the time of his arrest on graft charges in November, with a woman depicting him waving his handcuffed hands in the air and complaining about police brutality and judicial persecution.
At least one of the prosecutors appearing in the skit is involved in the continuing investigation of Chen.
Chen goes on trial tomorrow on charges of money laundering, bribery and looting a special presidential fund. While admitting his family wired more than US$20 million to overseas bank accounts under its control, he said the money was unused campaign contributions that under Taiwanese law are his to deal with freely.
Cohen, now a law professor at New York University, is one of the world's foremost experts on legal systems in Taiwan and China. He mentored Ma three decades ago at Harvard and they remain close. They last met in the presidential office in Taipei on Dec. 16.
In a telephone interview with AP, Cohen called performing the skit “unthinkable.”
“It is as if there are people trying to repudiate all the progress that Taiwan has made over the past 15 years,” he said, referring to Taiwan's gradual transition from dictatorship to multiparty democracy.
Cohen said Ma should move swiftly to force Wang to clarify remarks she made in defense of the skit, including her characterization that it was “just a little performance reflecting on current affairs.”
“If he doesn't get this, who in Taiwan can get it?” he said.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said Ma would not intervene with the justice minister on Chen's trial.
“President Ma Ying-jeou's stand is that he respects the judiciary and he does not interfere with individual cases,” he said.
There is “an increasingly disturbing circus atmosphere” surrounding the Chen trial that includes not only the mounting of the skit, but also a decision by a Taipei court to reverse its decision and order Chen jailed pending his trial, Cohen said.
Chen was originally locked up for 32 days to allow prosecutors to build their case against him, then ordered freed on his own recognizance by the court. However, he was returned to jail on Dec. 29 after a new panel of judges heard the prosecutors' second appeal against him.
Cohen said Ma's handling of Chen's case revealed an apparent choice to placate the extremist wing of his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rather than reaching out to the broad political middle.
“He's acting like [US President George W.] Bush in catering to the most right-wing conservative elements,” he said.
Presidential spokesman Wang rejected that characterization.
“[Ma's] hands-off policy has irritated some party members who hoped he could deal with the Chen case more aggressively,” he said.
“So it is incorrect to say that President Ma is trying to placate some party members with the way he is treating the Chen case,” Wang said.
There was a net reduction last year in the number of Taipei residents and this year is expected to set a 23-year high for population decline in the city, Ministry of the Interior statistics released yesterday showed. From January to last month, 18,861 more people moved out of Taipei than moved into the capital, an increase of 7,000 from the same period last year, the data showed. That is a 7.2 percent decrease in the city’s population since the start of the year, the biggest drop in both percentage and total number among all municipalities and counties nationwide, the data showed. The data
COUNCILS CLASH: The Mainland Affairs Council said a new office in Hong Kong is to assist people with issues related to investment, study and employment in Taiwan The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday denied an accusation by the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council that its Taiwanese counterpart in the territory was “interfering with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.” The Hong Kong council leveled the accusation after Taipei’s Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council this month announced it would establish a Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office to facilitate humanitarian aid for Hong Kongers. The new office is scheduled to begin operations on Wednesday. The MAC yesterday asked the Hong Kong council to “not misinterpret” the government’s intentions. The two Taiwan-Hong Kong councils were established in 2010 to
IRRESPONSIBLE ATTITUDES? Some experts say the NHI system does not do enough to educate the public, or pay doctors to talk to patients, about healthy lifestyles While the life expectancy of Taiwanese newborns in 2018 reached 80.69 years, the number of years people spent in poor health hit a record high at 8.41 years, Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics showed on Saturday. Healthy life expectancy is calculated by a person’s life expectancy minus the time they spend in ill health, such as the loss of mobility, disabilities and chronic disease, based on medical records and calculations about the years they live with disabilities. The number of years that Taiwanese spend in poor health is increasing slowly, but steadily, rising by 0.46 years, or five-and-a-half months, between 2012
UPTICK IN NUMBERS: The Taipei deputy mayor said the city has services to assist new immigrants, but has established an office specifically to help those from Hong Kong The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office today officially opens, where it is to provide humanitarian assistance to Hong Kongers, after Beijing yesterday passed a controversial national security law for the territory. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed dismay over China’s passage of the law, saying that Beijing has broken its pledge to allow Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years following its handover from the UK. “I feel extremely disappointed [about the law’s passage], which means China did not keep its promise to Hong Kong,” Tsai said in Taipei. Beijing’s “broken promise” also