Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 3 News List

US-based Taiwan experts add names to open letter

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER , WASHINGTON

Two important Taiwan experts based in Washington have added their names to the open letter published in the Taipei Times earlier this week expressing concern about what they see as an erosion of justice in Taiwan.

The new signatories are former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver and George Washington University academic Michael Yahuda.

In the original letter a group of international academics and writers urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to order an independent inquiry into the way police squashed protests during the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).

The letter said: “The establishment of a scrupulously neutral commission is essential if there is to be a fair and objective conclusion on the disturbances that occurred during the Chen Yunlin visit.”

Freedom House, Amnesty International and US professor Jerome Cohen have also strongly recommended an independent inquiry.

At the same time, the group has expressed concern about the legal proceedings in the case of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and political pressure from KMT members of the Legislative Yuan that preceded a switch from a three-judge panel that had released the former president on his own cognizance to a court that subsequently detained him again.

The letter said there had been a “widespread pattern of leaks to the media regarding ongoing cases — leaks, which because of their content and nature can only have come from the prosecutors’ offices.”

It mentioned a recent skit in which some prosecutors involved in Chen’s case poked fun at the former president.

“This pattern of behavior displays a distinct bias in the judicial system and a disregard for fair and impartial processes,” it said.

It concluded by again urging Ma “to ensure that your government and its judiciary and parliamentary institutions safeguard the full democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.”

In an article published this week in its Taiwan Communique, the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs said the last few months had seen a further erosion of human rights and democracy in Taiwan.

It said the downward slide started in mid-October with the arrest and detention of former and present officials of the Democratic Progressive Party administration and worsened with aggressive police behavior during the Chen Yunlin visit in early November.

“Both developments were reminiscent of Taiwan’s police state under the Kuomintang’s [KMT] martial law, which lasted from 1947 until 1987,” the article said.

It quoted Cohen, who was Ma’s law professor at Harvard, as saying that the recent court proceedings against Chen Shui-bian “mocked the promise” of fairness.

“At what point does the presumption of innocence become meaningless and the pre-conviction detention morph into punishment for a crime not finally proved?” Cohen asked.

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