The presidents of three leading Taiwanese-American organizations have sent a letter to the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressing “grave concern” over the recent detention of former president Chen Shui-bian and several other Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians and officials without formal charges and urged that they be freed until any any formal charges are brought.
The letter also protests the conduct of police during the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) to Taipei earlier this month, which they described as a “systematic infringement of the freedom of speech.”
Meanwhile, some members of Congress are considering sending a letter to Ma concerning the detentions, but few details of the plans are known.
Other than that, however, the multiple detentions of opposition leaders in Taiwan have elicited little official response in Washington, which has been totally consumed by the financial crisis and president-elect Barack Obama’s transition.
The State Department has been restrained in its remarks. In answer to a question on Tuesday, department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “we are confident in Taiwan’s democracy and its legal system. We have every expectation that the process will be transparent, fair and impartial.”
McCormack echoed statements by American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young in Taipei recently.
But there is still some concern in Washington over the manner and timing of the detentions, coming as they did on the eve of Chen’s visit and in light of the importance Ma placed on the visit as part of his policy of placating Beijing.
Stephen Yates, a former Asian affairs aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and now president of the consulting group, DC Asia Advisory, for instance, has questioned both the timing of the detentions and the absence of any charges.
“Given the provision of law that was cited as justification for the detentions, how is it that for the last six months the Republic of China was safe up until the eve of the visit of Chen Yunlin, [and only then] did these people needed to be locked up?” Yates said. “It’s a little bit of a stretch of the imagination. And by the way, just because this law is on the books, it was written for a bygone era. Do the people of Taiwan still think this is a standard appropriate to their standard of living today?”
The three Taiwanese-American association officials who signed the letter, which was sent on Monday to Taipei Economic and Cultural office in Kansas City Director General Dale Jieh (介文汲), were Bob Yang (楊英育), president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), Sue Lee, president of the North American Taiwan Women’s Association, and Yang Mei-li (楊美麗), president of the Kansas City chapter of the Taiwanese Association of America.
The letter asked Jieh to convey to Ma’s government “the grave concerns Taiwanese-Americans now have” over the detentions and Chen Yunlin’s visit.
“Specifically, we are offended by the suppression of freedom of speech by the Ma Ying-jeou administration” during Chen Yunlin’s visit, the recent arrests and the “undignified treatment meted out to Taiwan’s former president Chen Shui-bian.”
The signatories said Chen’s treatment “epitomized the unequal application of law.”
“[Former] president Chen has not been indicted. He had earlier been banned from leaving the country. Yet the prosecutors detained him without bail and chained him in handcuffs,” the letter said. “Contrast this with the case of then Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou. He was formally indicted for corruption on Feb. 13, 2007. However, he was neither arrested nor handcuffed. In fact, he held a press conference that very day to announce his candidacy for Taiwan’s president.”
“We urge the Ma Ying-jeou administration to investigate corruption and other charges against KMT [members] as well as DPP [members],” the letter said.
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