Signatories of open letter slam government response

‘TIME OUT’ ON AUTHORITARIANISM::The signatories said the Presidential Office’s response was unconvincing and still see a political motivation behind the document probe

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in WASHINGTON

Thu, Apr 21, 2011 - Page 3

Many of the 34 academics who signed an open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) questioning his administration’s decision to investigate former senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials over 36,000 supposedly missing government documents are far from satisfied or reassured by the government’s response.

Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) denied in a letter received by the academics this week that the investigation was politically motivated, even though it was announced on the eve of former premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) registration for the DPP’s primaries for next year’s presidential election.

Su is one of the 17 people being investigated.

“I am surprised at the sharp response of the Ma administration, which seems disproportionate to the letter itself,” June Teufel Dreyer of the University of Miami said. “I daresay that few of the signers find spokesperson Lo’s explanation convincing.”

Dreyer said the signatories had also heard “disquieting comments” from Lo and others alleging that the letter was originally written in Chinese (“it was originally written in English”) and that the signatories were ignorant of Taiwan.

“Really, some of us have lived there for decades; others visit regularly, read Taiwan newspapers and watch Taiwan television. Some were born in Taiwan; one carries a Taiwan/ROC passport. How then can we be considered ignorant? One must wonder how many documents were lost in the 2000 presidential transition,” she said.

Author Gordon Chang (章家敦), another of those who signed the open letter, said: “The case of the 36,000 missing documents is a whodunit without a crime, at least no crime involving the documents in question. But of course there is one crime in this drama. And what is that? That is the willingness of President Ma’s administration to use its investigatory powers to influence the upcoming elections. That crime is real, shameful and corrosive of democracy.”

“We sent the letter because someone had to speak out. The assertion that we are ‘foreigners’ who should mind our own business is regrettably the same one Beijing makes whenever someone points out the obvious about human rights in China. This is a perfect time to call a ‘time out’ on Ma’s march back to authoritarianism,” he said.

And Stephen Yates, former deputy assistant for national security affairs to former US vice president Dick Cheney, said: “News of the recent government action against several of the most senior officials in the previous administration struck many of us as unusual and questionable. It appeared to be part of a troubling pattern of expansive, lengthy and repeated investigations, indictments and trials of former administration officials. Much of which amounts to a criminalization of politics and an erosion of justice.”

“Senior elected and appointed officials in any government are not responsible for document management. And the fact that two-and-a-half years passed before this issue was referred to the Control Yuan for investigation also is inconsistent with any notion of real national security or law enforcement concern,” Yates said.

John Tkacik, a former senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, said: “Supposedly these documents are circulating outside the Presidential Office. Why weren’t there any examples given? Surely, the Presidential Office could have pointed to some of the unclassified documents that are missing and demonstrate how their circulation is injuring the public interest. That in itself is enough to make anyone suspect that the accusations are politically motivated. At this point, the 36,000 documents affair looks like deminimis non curat lex — trifles not to be handled under the law.”