New York University (NYU) professor Jerome Cohen has lamented the reluctance of members of Taiwan’s legal profession to speak out about problems with the judicial system.
In his latest article, Cohen criticizes the nation’s “law professors, legal scholars and social scientists” for their failure to highlight perceived injustices within the system, while comparing them unfavorably with their Chinese counterparts.
The piece, entitled “Silence of the Lambs,” appeared in Thursday’s edition of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
Speaking about a recent trip to Taiwan, Cohen, the co-director of NYU’s US-Asia law institute and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) supervisor during his studies at Harvard, said that he had heard numerous complaints from legal academics about biased judges and political prosecution, the lack of progress on judicial reform and the continued detention of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
While these people were prepared to share their grievances with him in private, Cohen said that they were unwilling to go public, saying they feared they would be accused of being a pan-green supporter or of being soft on corruption.
Others said going public would make little difference, that they were too busy with work or family, or that it could interfere with government appointments, he wrote.
Cohen went on to say that without such public concern it would “be difficult to achieve optimum solutions to many major law reform issues” in Taiwan.
Legal professionals in Taiwan who hold back are exercising fewer freedoms than their Chinese counterparts, he said, who often risk their “physical safety, their careers and their family’s well-being by ‘speaking truth to power.’”
“If they fail to take advantage of their hard-earned freedoms to speak out, they put their society’s precious accomplishments at risk,” he wrote.
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