Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) yesterday quoted the author of a Washington Post report on the alleged improper lobbying case involving Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) as saying that some local media had twisted his words by saying the article equated the case with the 1972 to 1974 Watergate scandal in the US, which involved taped White House conversations and led to the resignation of then-US president Richard Nixon.
“The Washington Post report did not directly refer to or describe the incident [the alleged improper lobbying case] as ‘Taiwan’s Watergate.’ It merely stated that the country’s opposition party, with which Wang had good ties, has criticized President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for his handling of the investigation into the incident,” King said at a press conference on Friday.
The press conference was called shortly after the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office received an e-mail from the report’s author, William Wan, in response to a letter it sent to him a few days earlier to explain the differences between the two cases.
Wan, a Beijing-based correspondent for the English-language newspaper, wrote in a Sept. 12 article: “Wang also had good ties with Taiwan’s opposition party, which has criticized Ma for his handling of the investigation and referred to the wiretapping scandal as ‘Taiwan’s Watergate.’”
Recent reports by FTV News and the Chinese-language Apple Daily newspaper have misattributed the term to the article, while in fact it was derived from the slogan of a placard hung on the wall of a conference room when Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) held a press conference on Sept. 9 to clear up the allegations, King said.
“Distorting foreign press reports and misattributing information are detrimental to Taiwan’s image and the representative office feels obligated to clarify the incident,” King said.
The allegations were brought by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID) earlier this month, which accused Wang of lobbying former minister of justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) and Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office Head Prosecutor Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌) not to appeal a non-guilty verdict in a breach of trust case against Ker.
The opposition parties have cast doubts on the legitimacy and motives of the division’s wiretapping of Ker, drawing parallels between the case and the Watergate scandal.
It is the second time that King has defended the division’s handling of the case, after he said at a monthly meeting with Washington-based reporters on Thursday that the comparisons between the case and the Watergate scandal were unsubstantiated.
“I have assured the US that no illegal wiretapping was used in the SID’s investigation into the alleged improper lobbying case. The wiretap on Ker was conducted based on a court-issued warrant as part of the division’s efforts to investigate potential criminal offenses,” King said at the meeting.
King said he had sent an 11-page report to the US to clear up allegations of misconduct on the division’s part in the case, which he said was the exact opposite of the Watergate scandal, because the division had made public the transcript of a wiretapped telephone conversation between Wang and Ker. Nixon had initially refused to release the taped recordings of White House conversations.
However, King’s defensive statements about the case have sparked fury among members of the Judicial Reform Foundation.
Foundation executive director Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正) said King had deliberately turned a blind eye to and played down the division’s perceived irregularities, which had been met with severe public criticism and underlined flaws in the nation’s judicial system.
Joseph Lin (林永頌), an attorney and a board member at the foundation, said King had clearly confused his status as a Republic of China diplomat with his position as former secretary-general of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), of which Ma is chairman.
“It’s debatable whether a diplomat should be involved in a political rift between the president and the legislative speaker. I’m afraid King has no idea what his job entails, otherwise he wouldn’t have commented on the matter before the Control Yuan and the Ministry of Justice’s prosecutor evaluation committee conclude their investigations into the case,” Lin said.