President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday expressed regret over the country’s ranking in an international study on government corruption, calling for government and judiciary reviews of “major” corruption cases and concrete proposals within three months to remedy the situation.
The Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranked Taiwan lower than China.
The results were based on an annual survey of the perceptions of foreign business executives.
“Taiwan’s degree of corruption was unexpectedly worse than that of mainland China,” Ma said.
The president took the rare step of presiding himself over an unscheduled press conference, reading a statement that said he felt “distressed” over recent scandals involving military and government officials, adding that it was unacceptable that Taiwan’s ranking lagged behind China’s.
Ma did not take questions from reporters.
“Taiwan has been so proud of its democratic achievements within the Chinese community,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone will accept the fact that our democratic achievements are tarnished by corruption.”
If the government failed to deal appropriately with recent scandals, Ma said, Taiwan’s democratic achievements and core values are bound to erode.
Emphasizing that most of the corruption scandals had occurred when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power, Ma said his administration had a duty to clamp down on corruption.
Ma said he hoped the judiciary would step up its efforts in handling corruption cases.
He said no-one was above the law in terms of corruption.
“I want to urge the executive and judicial branches to solve all cases without delay regardless of the political affiliation and official rank of the people involved,” he said. “Anyone who hinders or hides any case will get the punishment they deserve.”
Ma promised to inject more manpower and resources if necessary. He demanded that the judiciary and government agencies present a comprehensive report on “major” corruption scandals and a reform plan within three months, without elaborating on what “major” meant.
“Being honest and free from corruption is not a slogan but a concrete act,” he said. “In addition to investigating scandals, government agencies must prevent corruption from happening.”
Ma praised the legislature for recently passing an anti-corruption bill, calling it a “milestone.”
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) yesterday dismissed speculation that Ma was targeting former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
The former president has been charged with money-laundering, accepting bribes, embezzling NT$15 million (US$450,000) and forgery.
Wang said Ma attached great importance to the fight against corruption. It was a humiliation for Ma to see government corruption overshadow the country’s proud achievements in democracy and freedom, Wang said.
Wang said Ma had decided at the last moment to make the announcement himself because he wanted to send a stronger message to the public.
At a separate setting yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) lauded the president for showing determination to tackle corruption.
Lo said it had been the government’s responsibility to combat corruption since the transition of power last year, adding that the government should not delay taking action.