Former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) indictment on corruption charges yesterday led political allies to react with both surprise and dismay, raising claims about political retribution against the outspoken critic of the current administration.
Prosecutors accuse the 88-year-old, still highly respected in government circles, and a former top aide of siphoning money from a secret diplomatic fund to help set up a private think tank during his presidency from 1988 to 2000.
The charges, announced by prosecutors in a high-profile morning press conference, come at a sensitive time. The presidential and legislative elections are seven months away and Lee is seen as a father figure to many in the pro-independence camp.
The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), which Lee helped to establish in 2000, immediately dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign designed to discredit the former president and his supporters.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was more cautious.
“The allegations show that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign must be in dire straits,” TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) said. “It’s an obvious attempt to use the judiciary to incite political strife.”
Huang and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the party’s presidential nominee, are expected to appear with Lee at a previously scheduled fundraiser tonight.
DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said the judiciary should demonstrate caution to avoid creating the impression that it is politically biased, given the current political environment. Chen also emphasized the DPP’s lack of involvement in the case.
Lee was the chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) at the time of the alleged offenses, as well as being elected president, Chen said.
“We hope the judiciary can take a consistent look at the past 50 years of KMT administration, all the way up to Lee, and determine whether all cases of potential misuses of secret government funds have been properly handled,” he said.
As the nation’s first democratically elected president, Lee counts as allies both pan-blue and pan-green politicians stretching from his time as an up-and-coming KMT official. His political stance gradually shifted toward pro-Taiwanese independence.
One sign of his widespread appeal was at a birthday celebration in January, when Lee welcomed Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and senior politicians from both the KMT and the DPP. Ma was the only key political figure left off the guest list.
DPP lawmakers were more outspoken about the case in the legislature.
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) called it a sign of “selective processing” given that many other senior politicians have also faced allegations that they misused secret government funds.
“The courts are owned by the KMT, exemplified by the case we see here,” Gao said.
DPP caucus chief Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the court case could potentially affect the January elections and the DPP’s cooperation with the TSU, which identifies Lee as its spiritual leader.
However, KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) urged the public to respect the judicial process.
“If the defendant is innocent, I’m sure the judiciary will clear his name,” he said.
Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said the office would not comment on any ongoing cases.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH
‘GOOD SIGN’: Thanks to public efforts, the number of COVID-19 cases is on a downward trend, the minister of health said, but told people not to let their guard down The COVID-19 situation appears to be relatively stable and on a downward trend, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday, as he reported 185 domestic COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths. “This seems to be a relatively good sign,” Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), told a daily news briefing. In Taipei and New Taipei City, the overall situation seems to be heading in a good direction, he added. He attributed it to public efforts to control the spread of the virus, but warned people against letting their guard down. Of the new local cases, 83 are males and
The EU is set to lift travel restrictions for US and Taiwanese residents as soon as this week, in the latest step toward a return to normal, despite concerns over the spread of potentially dangerous COVID-19 variants. Portugal, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, proposed adding Taiwan, the US, Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and Serbia to a so-called “white list” of countries from which non-essential travel to the bloc is allowed, a diplomat familiar with the matter said. Assuming no objections, EU government envoys in Brussels would today approve the expanded
NO CONNECTION: Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said the CECC has linked no deaths so far to the AstraZeneca vaccine Eleven people in the nation have died after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, but the deaths should not deter older people with chronic health conditions from getting vaccinated. Nine of the deaths — people aged 65 to 97 — took place three hours to one day after the AstraZeneca vaccine was given, the center said, while eight of the 11 deaths were people aged 75 or older, most of whom had chronic health conditions. On Wednesday, the center said that 12 more people — seven women and five men aged 42 to 97 at
NEW BATCH: The ‘Liberty Times’ has reported that 240,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are to arrive in Taiwan today, following the first 150,000 doses that arrived in May The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 175 domestic cases of COVID-19 infection and 19 deaths. Of the local cases, 100 are male and 75 are female, with an onset of symptoms between June 3 and Wednesday, the center said. New Taipei City had the most local infections, with 87 cases, followed by Taipei with 34 cases, Miaoli County with 31, Hsinchu County with 10, Taoyuan with seven, and two each in Hualien County, Keelung and Taichung, it said. Of the 54 domestic cases reported outside Taipei and New Taipei City, 53 cases had known sources of infection, while one had an