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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times A guilty verdict to scorn

A guilty verdict to scorn

Prior to the onslaught of Typhoon Morakot, one name in the Cabinet stood above all others as a ripe candidate for removal in any reshuffle: Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰).

Wang, who has presided over and contributed to a punishing loss of confidence in the impartiality of the nation’s judicial system, survived this week’s reshuffle after lying low for some months. Her case was helped by not having a major role to play in the government’s diabolical response to the typhoon.

Any doubts about the justice minister keeping her position, however, would have been removed given the timing of the verdict in the trial of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), members of their family and several other accused.

No president would dare sacrifice a justice minister on the eve of such an important ruling, not even one as dismal as Wang.

Some might argue that Wang has done her job exactly as the ruling party hoped: defending the government to the hilt despite unconscionable lapses in the ministry’s professionalism and pitiful progress on judicial reform, while failing to defend judges and defense counsel demonized in the press and by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators, including some on the legislative committee that deals with judicial affairs.

For this minister, the presumption of innocence is a slogan to be parroted at meetings with foreign visitors, not a principle to be defended in the local media or among her fellow travelers in the KMT. She remains the perfect foil as the Chen saga continues.

It came as no surprise that Chen was found guilty given that he was found guilty in the court of public opinion many months ago, though the severity of his and his wife’s sentences may have surprised even some of Chen’s enemies. The safety of the judgment is yet to be established, and the lengthy verdict will take some time to analyze, but this much is clear: The trial was filled with irregularities and scenes of breathless farce to the extent that the wily Chen has gained considerable ammunition for what will likely be an interminable appeals process.

The political consequences following a life verdict cannot be underestimated. Chen’s enemies in the KMT will celebrate tonight, comfortable in the knowledge that the man most responsible in the last decade for furthering the agenda of an independent, democratic Taiwan has been taken out over the alleged theft of baubles — by KMT standards.

The truth is that Chen — if he indeed is corrupt, if he indeed committed forgery or was an accessory to such conduct, if he indeed “embezzled” campaign funds — cannot begin to compare with the legions of KMT officials, central government officials, regional and local officials, company directors, entrepreneurs and many other categories of the rich and powerful who have committed acts of fraud and violence against ordinary Taiwanese for decades and have never been brought to account — nor ever will.

The Chen verdict brings this risible saga to the next stage. Chen’s alienation of his supporters may soon bottom out as the government’s ineptitude and compulsive China policy allow the Democratic Progressive Party to place renewed pressure on the government to pursue reforms that get the politicians and politics out of the court room and increase transparency across the system.

If that were to happen, Chen’s proclivity for Christian imagery may prove apt. For all of the people he has let down, guilty or otherwise, his conviction could be the crucible that brings this mediocre, cynical government to book.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2009/09/12

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Academia Sinica’s Institutum Iurisprudentiae associate research professor Huang Kuo-chang.
Photo: Taipei Times

An investigation team set up by the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee that is scheduled to visit Academia Sinica tomorrow is an “intimidation measure,” said an associate research professor at the institution’s Institutum Iurisprudentiae.

Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) — a leading figure in the Sunflower movement — yesterday posted on Facebook two scanned copies of legislative documents that said the committee is scheduled to visit Academia Sinica tomorrow to inspect “the condition of its staffing levels and enhancements in performance after the institution’s restructuring.”