Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪), who was named minister of justice yesterday, said that just because she has no experience as a judge or prosecutor did not mean she was unqualified for the position.
Speaking to reporters after the Executive Yuan issued a statement announcing her appointment, Lo said she was prepared to sign execution orders when necessary.
A justice minister should not have any personal views on the death penalty, Lo said, adding that a justice minister is obliged to follow the law when signing execution orders.
Lo will replace Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫), who said he was forced to resign earlier this month by Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) for allegedly unduly taking the role of prosecution in allegations over improper lobbying involving Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平). Tseng denies any impropriety.
In the statement, the Executive Yuan praised Lo for her “uprightness, proactiveness and dedication to promoting human rights.”
The Executive Yuan said it was confident that Lo will be able to defend judicial independence and align the development of human rights with international standards after she takes up the position.
Lo, born in 1951, holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Albany, State University of New York, and has been known to have a close relationship with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
She was a year behind Ma at National Taiwan University’s College of Law and joined a movement in the US against Japan’s territorial claim to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the early 1970s, of which Ma was a leader.
When Ma was accused in 2007 of misusing his special allowance funds during his two terms as mayor of Taipei, Lo, a lawyer, represented Yu Wen (余文), then a Taipei City Government staffer who handled reimbursements for the allowance, in defending Ma’s name.
Lo denied that her relationship with Ma dated back to National Taiwan University, saying that they did not get to know each other until they both became involved in the Protect Diaoyutai Islands Movement in the US.
After her appointment was announced, criticism was raised because of her lack of experience within the Ministry of Justice and because she has not served as a judge or a prosecutor.
In response to reporters’ questions, Lo said she first turned down the position, telling Jiang that she lacked experience.
However, Jiang did not consider that a problem and convinced her to prioritize national interests and consider the overall situation, Lo said.
Saying that the duty ahead of her “is certainly going to be very heavy,” Lo added that she was “not worried” because the Ministry of Justice has an abundance of talented staff members.
Lo was appointed minister of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission in 2011 and simultaneously served as a minister without portfolio in charge of coordinating policies related to the judicial system, police, households and Hakka and Aboriginal affairs.
Following the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) in July, allegedly due to mistreatment by his superiors, Lo was assigned to coordinate efforts among government agencies to end the military court martial system and to lead the Executive Yuan’s Military Injustice Petitions Committee to review cases of miscarriages of justice.
Lo will be the third justice minister in the Ma administration.
Tseng replaced Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), who resigned in 2010 over her refusal to sign execution orders. During his tenure, Tseng signed execution orders for 21 death penalty inmates.