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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Chen ruling sounds like old, cranky feudal hands

Chen ruling sounds like old, cranky feudal hands

In the wording of their verdict in the corruption trial of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the three court judges wrote in the style of cranky old Chinese teachers. The tone of the verdict makes them look like tyrannical feudal officials who exercised undivided administrative, legislative and judicial powers in ancient times, rather than judges in a democratic era.

By quoting ancient sayings in the verdict, the judges unintentionally gave themselves and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) a slap in the face.

The verdict condemns Chen with the Chinese proverb: “As the grass bends before the wind, so do inferiors imitate their superiors” (風行草偃,上行下效). In reality, the saying better describes Ma’s new party-state system and authoritarianism. As for another quoted saying, “To be a leader is to be a master and a teacher” (作之君,作之師), this is also a reflection of Ma’s arrogant attitude to ordinary people in Taiwan.

The late writer Bo Yang (柏楊), who was persecuted by the previous Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime, once satirized the police for acting like the public’s master, parent and teacher. Ma’s style is arrogant and anti-­democratic. He wants to be both a master and teacher, but he is by no means a caring parent. His patronizing comment to Aborigines that “I see you as people” and his cold and uncaring treatment of typhoon victims are ample evidence of his true character.

Ma’s administration has the characteristics of feudalistic rule, rather than the rule of law. Believing himself to be a kind leader, he decides for himself what benevolent policies are right for the people and what constitutes justice. His self-righteous attitude and arbitrary actions are reflected in the behavior of KMT bureaucrats, who struggle against their opponents in the style of “hating evils as deadly foes” (嫉惡如仇) and “expelling and exterminating every enemy” (趕盡殺絕).

During the old days of authoritarian rule by the KMT, the party used the judiciary as a tool to attack its critics and opposition forces. Former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen carried out reforms without availing themselves of this tool. Ma often proclaims the independence of the judiciary, but in his case it means “allowing” judicial officials, who have long been manipulated by the KMT, to refer to his views and implement his will.

As a tool in the hand of political forces, the judiciary makes its decisions not according to evidence or the letter of the law, but according to political demands. In order to put Chen behind bars, the KMT government went so far as to make the unlawful move of replacing the judges in charge of the case. The party’s proxy, Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓), who anachronistically relied on centuries-old precedents to absolve Ma of accusations of corruption, applied entirely different standards in Chen’s case, listening only to the “proof” presented by the prosecution and quoting irrelevant ancient morals and philosophy in imposing a heavy sentence on the former president.

Neo-authoritarianism is based on Confucian ethics, so it is not surprising that Tsai should quote Confucius (孔子) in the verdict. Ma is determined to repress his opponents, and Tsai complied by imposing a severe sentence on Chen and quoting Confucian philosophy as grounds for the court’s decision. Ma takes pride in being the people’s master and teacher. He does not need to interfere in the judiciary, because bureaucrats and political hacks alike can figure out what he wants and act accordingly. Ma must be very pleased with their performance.

By scolding Chen with criticisms that are more applicable to Ma, Tsai has revealed for all to see the feudal and autocratic face of Ma’s authoritarian rule.

James Wang is a media commentator.


Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2009/09/16

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