Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday continued to urge President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to offer an explanation of the intelligence authorities’ alleged monitoring of her campaign.
“The gravity of the alleged illegal practice is more serious than the Watergate scandal, with the president suspected of abusing his power and violating laws,” Tsai told a press conference yesterday evening.
The controversy involving Ma and the nation’s intelligence authorities snowballed after Next Magazine reported on Wednesday that National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen (胡為真), who reports directly to the president, acted beyond his authority when he allegedly asked the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau to monitor Tsai.
The NSC, the National Security Bureau and the ministry in response have in separate press releases said that there has not been any wrongdoing and they have only focused on the protection of the candidates.
Ma, meanwhile, said he was not aware of any such practice.
Unconvinced, Tsai said Ma should offer a clear explanation on whether the state apparatus has been exploited as a campaign tool, adding that if Ma does not know anything about the monitoring, “that would be the worst-case scenario, because [it would indicate] he has failed to function as a president.”
“His qualities as the national leader would be highly questionable,” Tsai said, adding that Ma is either lying to the public or incompetent in his management of the NSC.
Tsai urged the judiciary agencies to launch an investigation into the case and to secure related documents, including reports and minutes of meetings.
Saying that the Watergate scandal hurt not only the political career of former US president Richard Nixon, who later resigned, but also democracy in the US, Tsai added: “The controversy could very well turn out to be an international scandal, just like Watergate.”
The Investigation Bureau’s statements do not add up, Tsai said, as the agencies are supposed to collect information on those who might try to harm the candidates, rather than those who support and meet with them.
Tsai said that she did not officially become a presidential candidate until August, three months after the bureau began to collect information on her campaign, adding that the DPP had secured “some evidence” on the suspected monitoring, but had declined to disclose details because it would cause trouble for those involved.
Earlier yesterday, when speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a Hakka forum, Tsai said there had been many instances of suspected monitoring of her campaign, with the latest occurring on Wednesday.
Tsai said her campaign staff at about 11am on Wednesday set up an impromptu meeting with non-partisan Taichung City Councilor Lai Yi-huang (賴義鍠) on the afternoon of the same day after Tsai had returned from a visit to Kinmen.
The DPP found out after the meeting that Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Ma’s running mate, had called Lai at 1pm the same day to also set up an impromptu meeting two hours before Tsai’s scheduled courtesy call.
“This could not have happened if the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] were not monitoring our campaign and collecting information, and we have had many similar cases to back up our legitimate allegation that there has been a secret intelligence gathering system [to monitor our campaign],” she said.
At an impromptu press conference late last night, Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said that Ma had never instructed the Investigation Bureau to provide him with Tsai’s campaign schedule or estimations of her number of votes, and that the bureau had not reported any such information to the president.
“President Ma told the bureau chief the bureau should not investigate the opposition parties ... He did not ask the NSC to monitor or investigate opposition party leaders,” Fan Chiang said.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih