Former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) indictment on corruption charges yesterday led political allies to react with both surprise and dismay, raising claims about political retribution against the outspoken critic of the current administration.
Prosecutors accuse the 88-year-old, still highly respected in government circles, and a former top aide of siphoning money from a secret diplomatic fund to help set up a private think tank during his presidency from 1988 to 2000.
The charges, announced by prosecutors in a high-profile morning press conference, come at a sensitive time. The presidential and legislative elections are seven months away and Lee is seen as a father figure to many in the pro-independence camp.
The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), which Lee helped to establish in 2000, immediately dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign designed to discredit the former president and his supporters.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was more cautious.
“The allegations show that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign must be in dire straits,” TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) said. “It’s an obvious attempt to use the judiciary to incite political strife.”
Huang and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the party’s presidential nominee, are expected to appear with Lee at a previously scheduled fundraiser tonight.
DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said the judiciary should demonstrate caution to avoid creating the impression that it is politically biased, given the current political environment. Chen also emphasized the DPP’s lack of involvement in the case.
Lee was the chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) at the time of the alleged offenses, as well as being elected president, Chen said.
“We hope the judiciary can take a consistent look at the past 50 years of KMT administration, all the way up to Lee, and determine whether all cases of potential misuses of secret government funds have been properly handled,” he said.
As the nation’s first democratically elected president, Lee counts as allies both pan-blue and pan-green politicians stretching from his time as an up-and-coming KMT official. His political stance gradually shifted toward pro-Taiwanese independence.
One sign of his widespread appeal was at a birthday celebration in January, when Lee welcomed Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and senior politicians from both the KMT and the DPP. Ma was the only key political figure left off the guest list.
DPP lawmakers were more outspoken about the case in the legislature.
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) called it a sign of “selective processing” given that many other senior politicians have also faced allegations that they misused secret government funds.
“The courts are owned by the KMT, exemplified by the case we see here,” Gao said.
DPP caucus chief Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the court case could potentially affect the January elections and the DPP’s cooperation with the TSU, which identifies Lee as its spiritual leader.
However, KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) urged the public to respect the judicial process.
“If the defendant is innocent, I’m sure the judiciary will clear his name,” he said.
Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said the office would not comment on any ongoing cases.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH
MORE ARRIVALS ALLOWED: Taiwan yesterday increased its cap on arrivals to 60,000 from 50,000 ahead of a full border opening with a weekly cap of 150,000 on Oct. 13 Travelers arriving in Taiwan from Oct. 13 would no longer be required to quarantine on arrival and visitors of all nationalities would be allowed to enter, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced yesterday. However, the number of arrivals would be capped at 150,000 per week, he added. Travelers aged two or older would be given four rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits on arrival and be asked to monitor their health for seven days, Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) told a news conference. Under the new arrival protocol, travelers would have to take a test on the day of arrival or the day after, followed
SOVEREIGN NATION: The Chinese premier’s remarks about the CCP’s resolve to achieve unification sought to undermine the legitimacy of Taiwan, the MAC said Taiwan will never accept Beijing’s attempts to undermine its sovereignty, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday, after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at its National Day celebrations in Beijing vowed to achieve unification with Taiwan. The CCP’s statement was not conducive to peaceful cross-strait relations, the council said. The event, hosted by the Chinese State Council, featured Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), the other five CCP Politburo Standing Committee members and Vice President Wang Qishan (王岐山), as well as 500 guests from China and abroad. Taiwanese based in China also attended the ceremony, Xinhua news agency
Washington is evaluating a transfer of weapons systems requested by Taiwan, according to a copy of a report by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) that is to be submitted to lawmakers tomorrow. Asked whether the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile would be among the weapons systems, the ministry refused to comment, but said that it would not rule out announcing the specifics later this year. The ministry’s domestically sourced high-priority military investments include submarines, next-generation light frigates, rescue ships, advanced trainer jets and infantry fighting vehicles, the report said. Planned deals include F-16A and F-16B jet performance upgrades, navigation and targeting
DEFENSE-READY: The armament of the ‘Yushan’ allows for amphibious combat operations, the head of a firm involved in the ship’s construction said The navy yesterday took delivery of the first locally developed and built naval ship of more than 10,000 tonnes in a ceremony in Kaohsiung presided over by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). The ROCS Yushan, an amphibious transport dock, was the result of a government-initiated indigenous shipbuilding project seeking to establish autonomy over national defense, Tsai said. She thanked CSBC Corp, Taiwan (台船), the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology and the navy for their contributions. The military needs the best equipment to uphold peace and defend Taiwan as it faces military threats from China, Tsai said. The 153m long and 23m wide Yushan