Sat, Oct 04, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Neil Peng starts 20-day jail term

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Independent Taipei mayoral candidate Neil Peng displays his handcuffs yesterday as officers take him from the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office to serve a 20-day jail term.

Photo courtesy of Neil Peng’s campaign office

Independent Taipei mayoral candidate Neil Peng (馮光遠) began a 20-day jail term yesterday, after he was sentenced for calling former Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) minister Emile Sheng (盛治仁) “a scum public servant” and, in protest, declined to pay a fine.

Escorted by a crowd of supporters and friends and with a smile on his face, the screenwriter and author reported to an annex office of the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office before he was handcuffed and sent to a correctional facility to serve his time.

“Since 1989, I have been a political commentator, and I had never been sued for my critiques of officials until 2008, when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and National Security Council Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) took office,” Peng told reporters before entering the prosecutors’ office.

“Obviously, these people are trying to silence voices of opposition through legal maneuvers, but I want to tell them that Taiwan’s democracy will not be so easily repressed,” he added.

Peng was sued by Sheng in 2012 over an article criticizing the then-Council for Cultural Affairs minister as a “scum public servant” after Sheng refused to publicize detailed budget information for a government-sponsored musical performance that cost NT$230 million (US$7.55 million at current exchange rates) of the taxpayers’ money in just two nights.

Although Peng could have avoided serving jail time by paying a fine, he declined to do so, saying that he would rather be behind bars than pay the government, as he did not think he had done anything wrong.

He said that he has the right to describe an official as “scum” given Sheng’s actions and added that it is ridiculous that a citizen should be jailed for criticizing an official who had “performed poorly.”

“Compared to Cheng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who self-immolated [in 1989] for the freedom of speech, the 20-day prison time is really nothing,” he said.

Yen Ming-wei (顏銘緯), a political activist and friend of Peng who gained notoriety after throwing a book at Ma in protest last week, gave six books — including one entitled Wish You Were Here — to Peng to read while detained.

“I am sure I will have a lot of time to read in prison,” Peng said while looking at the books. “However, I would like to tell Sheng: ‘I wish you were here.’”

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