Anger and bewilderment over what many perceived to be a light sentence for former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) have prompted many to take to the Internet to vent their frustration.
The Taipei District Court on Tuesday sentenced Lin to seven years and four months in prison for accepting NT$63 million (US$2.13 million) from a contractor.
The court said that even though Lin broke the law by using his power to threaten people for money and held property from unidentified sources, he had not violated the Anti-Corruption Act (貪汙治罪條例). As such, several of his relatives, who were also on trial, were declared not guilty of money-laundering.
Netizens have set up a Facebook page mocking President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration. On the page was a photograph of a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) membership card with the message: “Pay your KMT party membership fee. It offers better protection than the ‘pacifying Taisui (安太歲)’ ritual,” alluding to the popular Taoist practice in which people whose Chinese horoscope signs are in conflict with Taisui — the god who rules over all deities — perform this ritual during the Lunar New Year period to appease the god and pray for his protection in the year ahead.
The message appears to have resonated with many, and was avidly circulated among netizens, accompanied by satirical comments such as: “All over Taiwan, people are joining the long lines at KMT district offices to apply for membership.”
“[Former KMT legislator] Dianne Lee (李慶安) did not have to pay back her money. Lin Yi-shih accepting bribes does not count as corruption,” another netizen wrote, referring to the Taiwan High Court’s ruling in August 2011 that acquitted Lee of fraud over a dual-nationality controversy.
Lee was indicted for concealing her US citizenship while serving as a Taipei city councilor and a legislator, during which she was paid more than NT$100 million.
A netizen on the Professional Technology Temple (PTT) — the nation’s largest academic online bulletin board— wrote that Wu Chung-hsien (吳宗憲), a KMT member and chief of Yuanlin Town (員林), Changhua County, accepted NT$16 million in bribes and was sentenced to 14-and-a-half years in jail, and yet Lin got only seven years and four months.
Another PTT netizen wrote tongue-in-cheek: “If Lin had stashed away his NT$63 million, in exchange for a prison term of seven years and four months, this would come to a monthly wage of close to NT$480,000 [sic]. His yearly salary would be about NT$5.8 million [sic]. I say Lin has gotten an excellent job that gives high returns on investment.”
The 2004 Taiwan Sugar (Taisugar) land deal case involving senior Democratic Progressive Party politicians Wu Nai-jen (吳乃仁) and Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌) was frequently cited for comparison.
The Taiwan High Court’s Taichung Branch in March upheld a lower court’s ruling and handed Wu a prison term of three years, 10 months, and Hong two years and four months for giving in to lobbying by a property development firm and ensuring it won the right to purchase a plot of land it was renting from Taisugar.
One netizen questioned the courts’ double standards, saying that because Lin was a trusted confidant of Ma, the judges ruled that Lin did not have any real influence over government agencies, although he was the Cabinet secretary-general, whereas in the Taisugar case, the judges surmised that Wu still influenced decisions made at Taisugar although Wu had already left the company eight months before the land deal.