For the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), former Hsinchu mayor Lin Chih-chien’s (林智堅) plagiarism scandal has become an elephant in the room.
Prominent DPP members have shied away from addressing the issue, even though Lin’s scandal dealt a serious blow to the party’s performance in the nine-in-one-elections last year.
The collateral damage included a crippling blow to the political career of former Taoyuan mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), costing him the premiership and a possible pitch for the presidency.
It was reported that when Cheng was planning on running for party chairperson, Vice President and DPP Chairman William Lai (賴清德) initially decided not to run.
It was only later, when Cheng’s master’s degree from National Taiwan University was revoked due to plagiarism, that Lai put his name forward.
When Lai embarked on his run for chairperson, he addressed DPP members across Taiwan and listed plagiarism as one of the reasons for the party’s failure.
However, words are cheap, and the public is more concerned with Lai’s actions.
The DPP Central Executive Committee approved a series of rules on the academic integrity of party members on Feb. 8, and Lai said the rules were made in the spirit of honesty, impartiality, social trust and public support.
Plagiarism scandals have been prevalent across political parties.
Former Taiwan People’s Party legislator Tsai Pi-ru (蔡壁如) resigned from her position when she was engulfed in a plagiarism scandal, a move that proved to be in line with social expectations.
In contrast, Lin, as the future star of the DPP, was put in the spotlight and came under public scrutiny. With a miscalculation of crisis management by President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) team, Lin’s scandal eventually snowballed into a political fiasco, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) bathed in schadenfreude.
That Lai would take the bull by the horns and introduce measures to prevent similar scandals from happening shows that this is the DPP that Taiwanese used to love and support.
Since the DPP announced its rules governing academic dishonesty, pro-KMT media and pundits have been having a field day with criticism, with some calling the measure “a slap on the wrist” or demanding that Lin make a public apology.
On Tuesday last week, Lin released an apology and revoked his appeal for his NTU degree. It is likely that Lai had his hand in this, somewhere.
The DPP Central Evaluation Committee also suspended the membership rights of Tainan City Council Speaker Chiu Li-li (邱莉莉) and Deputy Speaker Lin Chih-chan (林志展) for three years over vote-buying accusations, a penalty that is more severe than legal measures and what party rules prescribe.
This, again, demonstrates Lai’s high expectations for party members’ ethics.
The DPP has also amended its internal rules governing the nomination of party candidates, barring members who have been indicted for involvement in organized crime, sexual assault, sexual relations with minors, drug-related offenses, illegal possession or use of knives or guns, or people allegedly involved in organized crime from running for public office or party seats.
The DPP had been popular with the public for its ideals, keeping its promises and its condemnation of the culture of backhanders in politics. If Lai could demonstrate his leadership and advance the DPP’s goals, even in the face of fierce party rivalry, he would help the pro-Taiwan party turn a new leaf and reclaim trust and confidence.
Lin Jin-jia is an attending psychiatrist at the Chi Mei Medical Center in Tainan.
Translated by Rita Wang
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