Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chen Shui-bian: What Kind of Leader would do This?

Chen Shui-bian: What Kind of Leader would do This?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 30, 2007

Chen Shui-bian asked: What kind of leader would I be if I were to sacrifice my "Plebsicite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" for the sake of better treatment during my transit through the US? This is hardly the only way to look at the matter. What Chen Shui-bian should have asked was: What kind of person would use the plebsicite to influence the upcoming elections, damage Taipei/Washington relations, and turn his state visit to Central America into a farce?

Everything Chen did was for the sake of the "Plebsicite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan." But the plebiscite is fundamentally a phony issue. Chen Shui-bian isn't going to all this trouble because he expects the plebiscite to succeed. All he really wants to do is elicit sympathy by butting his head against a wall. He is waiting for the plebiscite to go down in defeat. He will then milk the defeat for public sympathy, reaping the political benefits. Frank Hsieh told the US that Chen's attempt to "Join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" was doomed to failure. Clearly, "joining the UN" is a phony issue. Chen's formal application to "Join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" has already been rejected by the United Nations and sent back, unopened and unread. Clearly, the "holding of a plebiscite" is also a phony issue.

Chen Shui-bian is manipulating the "Plebsicite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" for entirely selfish motives. He hopes to give himself a complete makeover. He hopes to transform Chen Shui-bian the Kleptocrat into Chen Shui-bian the Champion of Taiwan independence. As the standard bearer for Taiwan independence, he can hijack the presidential election and control the post election political scene. That is why he is pushing the "Plebsicite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" without regard for the consequences. In fact, he knows perfectly well that his plebiscite can never succeed. He is merely hoping that its defeat will provoke public indignation. He knows perfectly well this is merely a short term electioneering move. Yet he has no hesitation about forcing the nation to pay a long term cost that may never be recouped.

Chen Shui-bian has severely damaged Taipei/Washington relations with his phony plebiscite. During his transit through the US the treatment he received was downgraded to new lows. When asked whether the US had insulted Chen Shui-bian, a US State Department spokesperson said "The US respects the people of Taiwan." US authorities urged Chen Shui-bian to display "leadership." The US was clearly implying that Chen Shui-bian was unfit to represent the people of Taiwan. The US State Department spokesperson essentially issued an ultimatum, demanding that Chen Shui-bian pull back from the precipice. Chen brought this humiliation upon himself. But Chen also damaged the friendship and trust between Taipei and Washington. How will Taipei get along with Washington after this? How will the Democratic Progressive Party? How will the Taiwan independence movement? Relations with Washington were sacrificed for a phony issue such as "Joining the UN under the Name of Taiwan." What kind of leader would do this?

Chen's plebiscite forced Central American allies to delete a clause stating that "Taiwan is an independent nation deserving of membership in international organizations such as the UN and WHO." Chiang Ching-kuo never resorted to "head of state diplomacy." He was "untopical." Lee Teng-hui had a passion for "head of state diplomacy." Theatrics became all the rage. Diplomacy degenerated into political theater. Diplomacy under Chen Shui-bian became a three ring circus. All for the sake of "domestic sales of commodities orginally produced for export." With much fanfare, Chen gave away nearly 10 billion dollars in aid to Honduras. Yet the following day, the clause supporting Taiwan's membership in the UN vanished from the joint communique. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya even ordered the broadcast signal cut during Chen Shui-bian's live speech. ROC allies refuse to support Chen's plebsicite. Those bribed refuse to stay bribed. Under these circumstances, what is the "Plebsicite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" except self-deception? Chen Shui-bian has turned Central and South America diplomacy into political theater. Now the government must cope with this "public bidding, private payola." The government's relationship with Central and South America is not diplomatic, it is pecuniary. That is why the Central America Summit dared to brazenly defy Chen Shui-bian. That is why the government's Central and South America diplomacy has reached the end of its rope. What kind of leader would do this?

Chen Shui-bian's "Plebsicite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" has demolished an international modus vivendi established through decades of hard work. The US has voiced its opposition. So have Japan, Russia, and the European Union. The United Nations has rejected Chen's formal application. The Central America Summit refused to stay bribed. In an open slap across Chen's face, it unilaterally altered the language of their joint communique. This time Chen Shui-bian has definitely overplayed his hand. By butting his head against a brick wall, he has put Taiwan at odds with the international modus vivendi. He hopes the "Taiwanese people" will feel victimized by the US, mainland China, the United Nations, the entire world. He intends to convert Taiwanese pathos into political support for himself and the Democratic Progressive Party, into sympathy for "humiliation endured for the greater cause." What kind of leader would do this?

When the US characterized Chen's "Plebsicite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" as detrimental to Taiwan's interests, it threw a monkeywrench into Chen Shui-bian's neat little script. The Central America Summit defied Chen Shui-bian by reneging on its promises. It refused to play along with Chen Shui-bian's political charade. Chen Shui-bian hopes to milk his plebiscite for all it is worth, over the ashes of Taiwan's international modus vivendi. What kind of leader would do this?

2007.08.30 03:24 am









Wednesday, August 29, 2007

America's Ultimatum: Does Taiwan still want the US as a Friend?

America's Ultimatum: Does Taiwan still want the US as a Friend?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 29, 2007

On the evening before Chen Shui-bian was scheduled to return from his state visits, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte issued a solemn admonition. He warned Chen Shui-bian not to hold a "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan." He warned him not to change the status quo in the Taiwan Straits, and not to play fast and loose with America's friendship. In fact, it was nothing less than an ultimatum.

Negroponte defined Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" as "a step towards a declaration of independence of Taiwan, towards an alteration of the status quo." This essentially defined the contest of wills between the US and Chen Shui-bian. If the US allows Chen Shui-bian to promote his "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan," that will amount to a display of weakness, to looking on idly as Chen Shui-bian promotes Taiwan independence and changes the status quo. If, on the other hand, the US wants to prevent Chen Shui-bian from promoting Taiwan independence and changing the status quo, it must prevent him from holding the "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan." Negroponte's remarks laid the US's cards on the table. Now it remains to be seen whether Chen Shui-bian or the US will be the first to fold.

During his interview with Hong Kong's Phoenix Television Network, the only issue Negroponte addressed was Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan." Negroponte's comments were clearly intended for Beijing's ears. Mainland China opposes both "de jure independence" and "changing the status quo." Negroponte sees Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" as "a step towards a declaration of independence of Taiwan, towards an alteration of the status quo." This means the US agrees with mainland China's "line in the sand," and stands with the mainland on Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan." We warned early on that Chen Shui-bian's "anti-China" moves had already morphed into "anti-America" moves. Consider this a confirmation.

Negroponte said, "This is a time for the authorities in Taiwan to behave in a responsible manner, to behave in a way that would advance the interests of Taiwan." In other words, the US believes that the Taiwan authorities' manipulation of the "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" is irresponsible and does not advance the interests of Taiwan. Negroponte even added that "We believe that pursuing a referendum of this kind could, as I said earlier, be interpreted as a step towards a declaration of independence, and we do not believe that that would be a constructive way on the part of the Taiwan authorities to pursue their interests." In other words, the US believes that Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" would not be advantageous even to the Taiwan authorities' own political objectives.

What most attracted attention during the interview was Negroponte's emphasis on Taipei's friendship with Washington. He said that "Taiwan has no better friend than the United States. We strongly support Taiwan's democracy. We support their economy. We're very impressed by their vibrant economy. And we're also, as you know, committed to the defense of Taiwan through the Taiwan Relations Act." But in a sudden shift, Negroponte pointed out that Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" was not in Taiwan's interest. His implication was that the Taiwan authorities were traitors to Taiwan's interests, and that the US was the true defender of Taiwan's interests. According to Negroponte's logic, the Taiwan authorities' "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" was in fact "harming Taiwan," while US efforts to stop Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" was "loving Taiwan." As we can see, the US was using this opportunity to speak directly to the public on Taiwan. It wants the public on Taiwan to believe that the US can discern Taiwan's interests better than Chen Shui-bian.

Towards the end of his interview, Negroponte suggested that the Taiwan authorities can benefit "from the friendship, the strong friendship of a country such as the United States" but "we believe that it has to be done in a serious and responsible way." In other words, Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" was not done in a serious and responsible way, and has damaged US friendship. Negroponte came straight to the point when he said "Taiwan has no better friend than the United States." He concluded by saying that "the strong friendship of a country such as the United States" must be maintained "in a serious and responsible way." Two threads ran through the interview. One was opposition to Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan." The other was an emphasis on "US friendship." The subtext was: "Does Taiwan still want the US as a friend?"

Does Chen Shui-bian intend to force the public to choose between his "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" and friendly relations between Taipei and Washington? Is the future of Taiwan to be decided by Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan?" Or does it still depend on American friendship and support? Which is more important? Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan?" Or friendly relations between Taipei and Washington?

Chen's "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" will test US strategic clout in the Taiwan Strait. If the US is unable to kill the "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan," that means it is unable to rein in Chen Shui-bian, it is unable to rein in the Democratic Progressive Party, and unable to suppress Taiwan independence. It will be unable to provide mainland China with a satisfactory accounting, and will be unable to oppose unilateral changes to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. If Chen Shui-bian succeeds in holding his "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan," then US opposition to unilateral changes in the status quo will no longer have any meaning.

When Chen Shui-bian transited through the US and received the US representative, he wore a "Support Taiwan's Membership in the UN" sticker on his lapel. That constituted an open declaration of war on the US. When US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte spoke of "Taiwan's interests" and "US friendship," that constituted a direct response to Chen's challenge.

Chen Shui-bian and the Democratic Progressive Party have a way out. Their "Resolution for a Normal Nation" can be toned down. Their "Plebiscite to join the UN under the Name of Taiwan" can be called off. War and peace often turn on a whim. Does Taiwan still want the US as a friend? Does Chen Shui-bian really want to lead the people of Taiwan on a reckless Jihad against the US?

2007.08.29 03:50 am


奈 葛彭升高姿態,將「入聯公投」定義為「朝向宣布台灣獨立及改變台海現狀的一步」。此一「定義」既成,也就形同訂定了美國與陳水扁對決的「勝負標準」。美國 若讓陳水扁推動「入聯公投」,就是向陳水扁示弱,亦是坐視陳水扁推動台獨及改變現狀;反之,美國若不容陳水扁推動台獨及改變現狀,就必須制止「入聯公 投」。奈葛彭的談話不啻與陳水扁攤牌:看陳水扁抵得住,還是美國撐得住?

奈葛彭接受香港鳳凰電視專訪,且以「入聯公投」為唯一詢答主題, 當然有說給中國當局聽的用意。中國反對「法理台獨」,亦反對「改變現狀」;奈葛彭如今將「入聯公投」視為「朝向宣布台獨及改變現狀的一步」,不啻表示美國 認同了中國的「紅線」,且在「入聯公投」上與中國共同持守此一「紅線」。我們很早就提出警告,陳水扁的「反中」操作,已經變質為「反美」,至此已告證實。

奈 葛彭說,此時此際,台灣當局的作為應有責任感,亦應求增進台灣的利益;換句話說,美國認為台灣當局操弄「入聯公投」,是不負責任且違反台灣利益的。甚至, 奈葛彭還說:「對台灣當局追求他們的利益而言,我不相信這(入聯公投)會是建設性的方式。」換句話說,美國認為,「入聯公投」甚至對「台灣當局」的政治目 的亦不利。

專訪中最令人注意的角度,是奈葛彭在訪問首尾皆強調台美友誼。他說,「台灣沒有比美國更好的朋友」,美國強烈支持台灣的民主和 經濟,也透過台灣關係法承諾防衛台灣;但是,話鋒一轉,奈葛彭又從各種角度指出「入聯公投」不符台灣的利益,彷彿台灣當局是台灣利益的背叛者,美國才是台 灣利益的維護者。於是,在奈葛彭的架構中,台灣當局的「入聯公投」其實是「害台灣」的,美國制止「入聯公投」則是「愛台灣」。由此可見,美國亦有透過這次 專訪與台灣人民對話的用意,希望台灣人民相信,美國比陳水扁更能認清台灣的利益。

奈葛彭在專訪結尾時表示,他認為台灣當局可以「從美國的 友誼中獲益」,「但我們相信必須用一種嚴肅和負責任的方式達成」。換句話說,「入聯公投」是「不嚴肅和不負責任的方式」,也傷害了「美國的友誼」。整場專 訪,以「台灣沒有比美國更好的朋友」開門見山,又以「必須用一種嚴肅和負責的方式達成(維持台美友誼)」收尾;全部問答以兩條軸線貫通,一條反對「入聯公 投」,一條強調「台美友誼」,絃外之音不啻就是:台灣還要不要美國這個朋友?


奈 葛彭的「哀的美敦書」不啻指出:美國將以能否制止「入聯公投」,來考驗美國在台海弈局中的角色。美國若壓不住入聯公投,也就壓不住陳水扁,也就壓不住民進 黨,也就壓不住台獨,也就不能向中國交代,也就不再能維持「反對任何一方片面改變現狀」的台海政策。美國與陳水扁的對決標準正是:陳水扁的「入聯公投」若 是勝出,即是「反對片面改變現狀」的美國台海政策落敗!



Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spinning Class Conflict as "Ethnic Conflict"

Spinning Class Conflict as "Ethnic Conflict"
United Daily New editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 28, 2007

While Chen Shui-bian was in Honduras doling out billions in aid, Chang Chun-hsiung was bickering with farmers in Hualien and Taitung until he was red in the face. His cabinet had reneged on its promise to provide 50,000 NT in emergency relief to farmers for every five hectares of land they owned. While the head of state was overseas throwing money around, playing Daddy Warbucks, the premier was back on the island catching flak from disaster stricken farmers. The contrast between the two scenarios was the height of irony.

The public watched as Chen Shui-bian opened wide and bit into a Taiwan guava grown in Honduras, and give a big thumbs up. It also remembered that the Chen regime forbade cross Straits agriculture exchanges. Even the shipping of Taiwan fruit to the mainland was ruthlessly blocked. Taiwan melon growers moan about flood damage. Pomelo growers groan about wind damage. Chen Shui-bian meanwhile is grinning from ear to ear, because Taiwan guavas have been successfully grown in South America. One can't help feeling one is in the Twilight Zone. Let's not forget that just before his departure, Chen allowed the import of ractopamine-contaminated US pork as a gesture of goodwill to Washington. By contrast, even mainland China forbade the import of ractopamine-laden US pork.

With his domestic approval rating at new lows, Chen Shui-bian hoped to use the pomp and circumstance of state visits to reaffirm his status as head of state. While Taiwan was inundated by floodwaters, caught up in the ractopamine-contaminated US pork dispute, and its farms suffering severe losses, Chen Shui-bian was scattering dollar bills along the way. Schoolchildren back home cannot afford nutritious lunches. Yet their parents must donate 30,000 computers to poor children in Honduras. No wonder villagers in rural Taiwan feel deprived. Why is Chen Shui-bian so generous to foreign allies, but so niggardly toward Taiwan's farmers?

The Democratic Progressive Party bills itself as a "native political authority." It counts on the farm vote to maintain its long term power. Yet the Democratic Progressive Party's relationship with the farm vote is peculiar, to say the least. It professes solidarity with farmers based on class origins. But in its bones, the DPP is a party of the capitalist class. It merely exploits peasants as political tools in its ersatz "Taiwanese, not Chinese" identity politics.

Every time an election rolls around, the Democratic Progressive Party pays lip service to its grass roots. But in truth the Democratic Progressive Party is in bed with the heads of major industries, big business, and financial groups. The Democratic Progressive Party leadership is drawn from attorneys, doctors, landlords, petty capitalists, and out of favor politicians. It is essentially a bourgeoise political organization. Even members of academia have trouble getting their foot in the door. What room is there for lowly peasants? The Democratic Progressive Party has neither the will nor the way to remedy the economic marginalization and hollowing out of Taiwan's countryside. Its only farm policy is to foment rural discontent, to get farmers to perceive their social disadvantage as an "ethnic disadvantage." That allows the DPP to evade the issue of class, and frame a class conflict as an ethnic conflict.

We must realize that the relationship between farmers and the government underwent a major change during the past 60 years. Many years ago the Kuomintang government implemented its "375 Rent Reduction" policy and its "Homestead Act," by which "those who work the land, will be given the land." Nearly 300,000 tenant farmer households benefitted from the KMT's policies. With the liberation of the farmer, the landlords and the Kuomintang became bitter enemies. But tenant farmers became the Kuomintang's supporters. Subsequent policy changes, by which agriculture subsidized fledgling industries, nelgected farmers' rights and interests, and the political climate in the countryside changed. The Democratic Progressive Party seized the opportunity to get its foot in the door. But it never had any intention of bettering the farmers' economic plight or elevating their social status. Its only goal was to incite farmers to hate "mainlanders."

Chen Shui-bian has been in power for seven years. He has enjoyed a virtual lock on the farm vote. Yet he has been at a total loss to do anything about the depressed state of the island's agricultural industry. Recent rezoning of agricultural land, making it available for commercial development, was billed as a "Benefits for All" policy. In fact it was merely another way of benefitting the bourgeoisie. What help is it to agriculture and rural development? Taiwan pig farmers are still recovering from the hoof and mouth disease debacle that occurred several years ago. Yet Chen Shui-bian, caving in to US pressure, rashly allowed the import of ractopamine-contaminated US pork, adding insult to injury. While visiting foreign countries, he scatters dollar bills like confetti. But when confronted with the plight of Taiwan's rural underclass, all he is willing to do is dole out "Subsidies to Elderly Farmers."

In years past, rural Taiwan had the capacity to absorb urban unemployment. But that capacity has been lost. News from the grassroots tells of drug dealing, theivery, robberies, and even murders, revealing that rural Taiwan is undergoing the same degeneration as the rest of society. Farm boy Yang Ju-men, with his "white rice bombs," exploded the Chen regime's lies long ago.

While Chang Chun-hsiung was nickle and diming farmers who demanded disaster relief, Chen Shui-bian was in Honduras, using public funds to donate 3,000 shiny new computer classrooms, equipped with 30,000 computers, in his own name. Has Chen Shui-bian forgotten that Taiwan also has poor people? That rural Taiwan is also on the wrong side of the digitial divide? That rural youth lack computers? A president who boasts that "Taiwan has embraced the world" has indeed embraced the world, and gotten its pockets picked in the process. Having bribed overseas allies for the sake of empty vanity, how will he look Taiwan's farmers in the eye?

2007.08.28 04:32 am










Monday, August 27, 2007

Checkbook Diplomacy: Account Overdrawn

Checkbook Diplomacy: Account Overdrawn
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 27, 2007

President Chen Shui-bian's recent state visit to Central America was trouble-ridden from beginning 'til end. The visit has done more harm than good. His "transit diplomacy" was doomed from the start. It threw dollar bills at everyone but got nothing in return, not even symbolic gestures. Even upon arrival, all Chen discussed with the media was domestic affairs. As usual, he came out guns blazing, firing in all directions. No surprises there.

Ever since assuming the office of president, Chen Shui-bian has wanted nothing more than to conduct state visits. Particularly to Central American allies whose geographical location provide him with an excuse to transit the US. These nations are the object of repeat visits. But after seven years, his treatment during transit, as well as the Republic of China's diplomatic status have steadily declined. His state visits were once occasions for Green camp gloating. Now they are public humiliations better forgotten. This so-called "graduation trip" is turning out to be yet another hollow charade. To save face, Chen insists on going through the motions. But the reality is not so easy to laugh off.

The purpose of this visit to El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, was not to bask in twenty-one gun salutes and the red carpet treatment, but to extinguish diplomatic fires. From the beginning this visit was shrouded by dark clouds. Two of them. The first cloud was President Chen's aggressive promotion of his "Plebiscite to Join the UN under the name of Taiwan." This severely damaged relations with the US, and even motivated the US to retaliate. The second cloud was Costa-Rica's shift toward Beijing. The Central American tectonic plate was beginning to slip. These two clouds constitute an unprecedented crisis for the Republic of China. If we review President Chen's actions, he obviously has no plans to repair relations between Taipei and Washington. He is relying exclusively on checkbook diplomacy to temporarily shore up relations with Taipei's Central American allies. Forget permanent cures. These don't even qualify as stopgap measures. Chen's bungling has laid bare the ROC's diplomatic crisis for all to see.

Chen Shui-bian has repeatedly abused Washington's goodwill, by using his transits through the US to consolidate popular support for his own presidency. Now an offended Washington is using his own weapon against him. It is using lowered levels of treatment to punish him. Many things in life have an odd symmetry to them. If you exploit transit diplomacy to elevate your status, you provide others a means to diminish your status. They can pull the red carpet from under you and let you take a tumble. Chen Shui-bian says he "endured humiliation for a higher cause." In fact he "brought humiliation upon himself." Worse yet, he resorted to yet another ruse to win sympathy for himself as a sacrificial martyr for Taiwan independence. Taipei/Washington relations are no longer even a consideration for Chen Shui-bian.

Halfway through his trip, Chen Shui-bian had issued checks amounting to 300 million US. Projects underwritten include a hydro-electric plant for Honduras and low interest loans for a high school computer center. Officially, hundreds of millions in aid were doled out. The actual amount is probably far higher. If this money actually improved the lives of the local populace, consolidated bilateral relations, and won international support for the Republic of China, it might be worth it. Unfortunately during Chen Shui-bian's summit with Central American heads of state, they vetoed the Chen regime's sole request, that they endorse his application for UN membership under the name of Taiwan. Honduras cancelled three joint press conferences with Chen in a row. Reporters from Taiwan were so frustrated they walked out in protest.

Economic conditions on Taiwan of late have been less than ideal. Entire families have been committing suicide by carbon monoxide inhalation at an alarming rate. Yet the Chen regime continues giving away huge sums of hard-earned taxpayer money, hoping for diplomatic support in return. When allies demand money, they receive it without hesitation. Meanwhile official summit resolutions are treated like hot potatoes. If this is not a warning signal, what is? Even more worrisome is that Nicaragua, Panama, and Guatemala failed to petition on behalf of Chen's "Plebsicite to join the UN in the Name of Taiwan." Reports are the Panamanian government refused even to allow the president's plane to transit Panama. These countries must take United Nations peacekeeping and Security Council matters into consideration. These are carrots and sticks that Beijing has but Taipei doesn't. The ambivalence displayed by Taipei's Central American allies suggests that bilateral relations are shaky.

Is this all Chen Shui-bian has to show for his diplomatic efforts? That depends on how Chen sees the role of diplomacy. For Chen Shui-bian, the power of his political office comes first, Democratic Progressive Party electoral victories come next, the national interest and the public welfare come last. This is the first time the Democratic Progressive Party has been in power. It has always constituted a minority in the legislature. Its crisis awareness is acute. It lacks confidence in its political accomplishments. That is why Chen Shui-bian resorts to any and all means to protect himself and ensure victory. Chen and the DPP live one day at a time. Their calculations are forever short term. A person without a long term strategy, will invariably find himself bedeviled by short term crises. If one is forever making short term calculations, one can never make long term plans. As a result, one's strategic situation steadily deteriorates, until everything goes awry at the same time, and all one can do is fight one fire after another.

Seven years of repeat visits to allies really didn't require Chen Shui-bian's participation each and every time. Looking back it was all for internal consumption, never for long term strategic positioning. It was nothing more than a stage on which to rally domestic support. The result has been the squandering of national resources in exchange for international embarrassment. Chen loves to transit the US. But his motive is to elevate his own status, not to bolster Taipei/Washington relations. His aggressive promotion of plebiscites, his termination of the National Unification Council, his "Plebiscite to join the UN in the Name of Taiwan," all put his personal political victories above Taipei/Washington relations. He has long regarded the national interest as his personal bank account. On the one hand he spends freely, as if there was no tomorrow. On the other hand, he never makes any deposits. For seven years, he has been living off the capital. Any future head of state who inherits his mess will find the account marked "overdrawn."

Chen refused to put on a tie. Instead, he sported a "Support Taiwan's Bid to join the UN" sticker to his lapel. He threatened to film a commercial saying Costa Rican coffee tasted bad. Apart from diminishing the prestige of the presidency, all he did was make himself an international laughing stock. Choosing to rail against the newly formed Ma/Hsiao ticket and the media from overseas, merely confirmed that foreign diplomacy has never been Chen Shui-bian's highest priority.

中國時報  2007.08.27










Thursday, August 23, 2007

From Political Appointee to Company Director

From Political Appointee to Company Director
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 23, 2007

Yeh Chu-lan has withdrawn from the "Hsieh/Yeh ticket." In exchange, she has been appointed Secretary General of the Presidential Office. Word has emerged from the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation that many out of work political appointees will become independent board members and receive handsome salaries. Ordinary shareholders are blasting this flagrant patronage. Last year the Presidential Palace declared it was "expressing its determination to push through reforms." It would no longer appoint highly paid presidential advisors. Yesterday however, word emerged that the Presidential Palace had already budgeted 7.2 billion NT for a new crop of presidential advisors and would soon begin hiring.

These three news items may appear unrelated. In fact they are closely linked. Chen Shui-bian regards government positions as personal rewards for services rendered. He awards these positions according to his personal whims. The negative example he has set no longer requires comment. Six reorganizations of the cabinet in seven years have created an army of former appointees. This army is now invading the private sector. The line between government and business is now thoroughly blurred. Under such circumstances, ringing slogans about reform merely ring hollow.

The money-losing Taiwan High Speed Rail has 24 vice-presidents. Each of them receives a mind-boggling average annual salary of 63.7 million NT (2 million US) a year. Three of these independent board members receive between two and five million NT. The Taiwan High Speed Rail is hardly an isolated case. Investigators report that former political appointees now serving as independent board members are too numerous to list. Former Executive Yuan Secretary General Wei Chi-lin is single-handedly serving on five boards. The Chen regime has had six Ministers of Finance. They have all joined holding companies, banks, and corporations and been appointed board chairmen.

This is remarkable for two reasons. First, the original reason for having independent board members was to increase internal oversight in order to better manage the company. But many businesses deliberately solicited former political appointees for such posts. Their motive was to solicit favors from the government based on the former political appointees' "guanxi." They hoped to ensure smooth sailing for their companies or receive advance notice of policy developments. Given such realities, how are independent board members who are so handsomely remunerated, so comfortably settled into their featherbeds, to act as independent overseers and fulfill their duty as internal watchdogs?

Second, according to the "Revolving Door Provisions" of the Civil Service Act, no departing official may not accept a company director or company official position in any industry he supervised during his term of office, for a period of three years. When the Democratic Progressive Party was out of office, it adopted a hard line on this matter. It was relentless in its crusade against Kuomintang patronage. Even lowly section chiefs were exempt. But now, an army of former appointees is being directly assigned to any number of state and private sector positions, by none other than the president himself. Many people within these businesses welcome the arrival of this army with open arms, totally ignoring the "Revolving Door Provision." They leave the government sector to join the business sector. They trample over the rule of law. They abandon their defense against political patronage. When the Democratic Progressive Party was out of office it championed one set of principles. Now that it is in power, it champions an entirely different set of principles. How sad is that?

From a more elevated perspective, it is not hard to see that the Chen regime's incompetence during its seven years in power has frittered away the nation's economic future. It has seriously undermined the Republic of China's once disciplined and efficient system of government, including the autonomy of its financial and economic decision-making agencies and the neutrality of the civil service. Who knows how long it will take to repair the destructive effects of Chen Shui-bian's two terms in power?

Consider three related questions: First, Chen Shui-bian repeatedly reorganized his cabinet during his seven years in office in order to create jobs for cronies. He abused people of talent. He demonstrated his contempt for civil service professionals. He undermined the stability and continuity of the nation's administrative system. Chen Shui-bian's ubiquitous meddling, combined with the Democratic Progressive Party's populist demagoguery, offered political appointees no room for independent, ethical, and responsible policy making. What kind of rational decision-making can one engage in, if every week one has to meet Prime Minister Chang Chun-hsiung's absurd demands for "A Benefit a Week?"

Second, the Chen regime corrupts people with remarkable speed and efficiency. The number of people willing to become cabinet ministers are as numerous as lemmings. Many covet these official positions. They know if they lose their government post for no reason, they will be immediately become board chairmen. Given such a vicious cycle, the cabinet is nothing but a "mass production machine for board chairmen." Looking back over the past seven years, one wonders, how such an arrangement can possibly cultivate people of ability. Chen Shui-bian's national policy advisory group was formed seven years ago. Within months advisors were leaving left and right. Now because of the upcoming election, Chen is recruiting new members. Isn't it obvious he is using public funds to buy himself political bosses who can deliver the vote?

Third, the army of political appointees manufactured by the Chen regime is now invading the business sector. They are unlikely to increase the quality of corporate management. They are likely to become albatrosses around management's neck. Generously provided with high salaries, these independent board members have become corporate gatekeepers. Whom among them remembers that once upon a time they were whistleblowers? The relationship between government officials and company officials has become an expanding gray area wide open to abuse. Is the Democratic Progressive Party truly unaware to this fact?

On stage, the curtain is about to ring up on the drama of the presidential election. But to those in the know, what is happening backstage, in dark corners where the spotlights cannot reach, far more frightening changes are going on.

2007.08.23 03:42 am











Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A National Level Financial Holding Company equals Disaster

A National Level Financial Holding Company equals Disaster
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 22, 2007

The Executive Yuan suddenly announced last week that it would merge the Bank of Taiwan, the Land Bank of Taiwan, and The Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China (EXIM), into a "Three in One" national level Taiwan financial holding company. The process would begin by the end of this year, and would be completed within three years. Global financial markets are still reverberating from the aftershocks of the US subprime market collapse. Yet the ruling DPP considers this the centerpiece of its resuscitated "Second Financial Reform" program. One really has to wonder "What were they thinking?" If this is merely talk, merely Chen Shui-bian desperately striving to leave himself a "legacy," or yet another ruling DPP election ploy, so be it. If it isn't, if they actually mean to implement it, it will be a national level disaster.

Global financial markets have been caught in the maelstrom caused by the US subprime mortgage crisis. Capital has dried up. The market has undergone wild swings. Investors have panicked. Liquidity has evaporated. Central bankers the world over have been forced to collectively intervene. The major markets are still shaking. Global assets are seeking new price levels. National governments are in full battle array. Yet the Executive Yuan announces an utterly irrelevant plan for a national level financial holding company. It merrily announces to the whole world its grand dreams, as if it were talking in its sleep. The Executive Yuan's timing is so inappropriate, it leaves one dumbfounded at the government's inability to evaluate its situation, and makes one doubt its crisis management skills.

Frankly speaking, the policy is unintelligible. According to the Executive Yuan, the "Three in One" national level financial holding company's capital assets will amount to 100 billion. Its banking assets will amount to 158.8 billion US. It will become the 89th largest bank in the world, surpassing even Singapore's largest bank. It will be the first multi-core financial holding company combining finance, enterprise finance, foreign exchange, negotiable securities, and insurance. But apart from trumpeting the large numbers and the wide range of services, the Executive Yuan hasn't offered any concrete and convincing justification for the merger, or explained how it would increase the nation's competitiveness. Just as the "Second Financial Reform" was subject to unrealistic time constraints, so the national level financial holding company plan lacks a comprehensive policy justification. It is a merger purely for the sake of a merger. It too will probably have its schedule cut in half. It too will probably share the same disastrous fate.

Besides being unintelligible, the policy is inconsistent. The Economic Development Advisory Conference researched this matter long ago. The Bank of Taiwan and the Land Bank of Taiwan should not be treated as policy tools, but should simply be privatized. Last year the Economic Development Advisory Conference suggested that there was no need for a national level financial holding company. The suggestion was not included in the text of the resolution in order to keep all options open. The Land Bank of Taiwan once commissioned Goldman Sachs to research the possible benefits of a merger with Bank of Taiwan. Goldman Sachs' conclusion was that it should privatize first. Although everyone has advised against such a merger, the Executive Yuan has persisted. This further underscores the fact that the national level financial holding company proposal is not endorsed by financial experts and would do nothing for the nation's competitiveness. Its only justification is to add a gold star to Chen Shui-bian's report card just before he steps down, or to light the fuse that will set off a war over financial reform.

If the establishment of national level financial holding company is nothing more than armchair strategizing by a ruling regime facing a difficult election, then one may as well play along with it. After all, forming a financial holding company is no easy matter. The worst fear is that the ruling regime, motivated by selfish political considerations, might actually force the three banks to merge before the end of the year. Once the proposal becomes an accomplished fact, that will mark the beginning of a disaster.

The inefficiency of state owned banks is legend. Leave aside financial innovation, market flexibility, and other demanding criteria. Just look at the "First Financial Reform," which forked over trillions in public funds to cover non-performing government loans. State owned banks have difficultly avoiding political influence. One can hardly expect the merger of the Bank of Taiwan, the Land Bank of Taiwan, and the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China to result in more efficient management, and not merely because of inbreeding. Even more to be feared is that following the merger, the combined "Three in One" entity will become a sitting duck for behind-the-scenes manipulators. Not only will it attract political patronage, it will generate losses comparable to the "First Financial Reform." Taxpayers will get stuck with the bill, and this national level project will become a national level disaster.

A national level financial holding company may well bring about economic disaster. The efficient operation of a financial system is essential to economic development, and can be compared to the free flow of blood in the human body. If a national level financial holding company controlling nearly two tenths of Taiwan's savings could be efficiently managed, it would become a model for company management. If it can't, it will bring calamity down on the economy. It may be too early to say with certainty that a national level financial holding company will be a failure. But based on the Executive Yuan's "Three in One" principles that it will not cut staff, will not be privately operated, and will not be listed on the stock market, such a national level financial holding company not only won't fly, it will drag everyone down with it.

2007.08.22 03:10 am








Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Prosecutors Play Dice with Constitutional Government

Prosecutors Play Dice with Constitutional Government
United Daily News (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 21, 2007

The Taipei Public Prosecutor, in a display of flagrant contempt for due process, has appealed the Ma Ying-jeou case. This is an act of retaliation by a minority of prosecutors abusing the appeals system, treating it as their own private means for revenge. It is also a political conspiracy on the part of high ranking prosecutors to drag the entire judiciary into the presidential election.

Some consider the Discretionary Fund a "substantive subsidy." Others consider it "public funds." Still others consider it "indeterminate in nature." The prosecutorial system can hold any one of these positions. But it cannot hold more than one of these positions. Otherwise how can it possibly provide a single standard of justice? Hou Kuan-jen has been accused of tampering with Ma Ying-jeou's depositions. These are serious charges. Hou Kuan-jen must be subjected to a thorough investigation to maintain public trust in the prosecutorial system. If one or two individuals can declare Hou Kuan-jen not guilty and attack the court's findings, then the appeals system has become the public prosecutors' private instrument for revenge. First: No unified opinion. Second: No internal investigation. These two points alone reveal that the public prosecutor's superiors authorized the appeal without concern for due process. Apparently they have no qualms about shoving the entire judicial system out the door into a political maelstrom.

Prosecutors who refuse to own up to their responsibility as prosecutors, who appeal unfavorable verdicts without regard for due process, clearly hope to turn the appeals process into a political confrontation. The presidential election is seven months away. The presidential inauguration is nine months away. The Taipei Public Prosecutor's Office is desperately buying time. It appealed first, and came up with reasons later. It hopes to turn the appeals process into a constitutional crisis over the verdict and the timing of the verdict. The appeal has become a high stakes political gamble.

Public debate and the District Court's verdict have already made the picture quite clear. The High Court's verdict will soon become obvious. When the verdict will be make public is not so obvious. If the verdict is "not guilty," but not made public until after the election, that will be disadvantageous to Ma Ying-jeou. If the verdict is "guilty," but not made public until after the election, that will be disadvantageous to Frank Hsieh. If Ma is found guilty after registering as a candidate, he will forfeit his candidacy. If Ma is found guilty after he being elected president, he will forfeit his presidency. Under such circumstances, it makes no difference whether Ma is found guilty or not guilty. It makes no difference whether the verdict is made public before or after the presidential election. The election result will be contested, and political unrest will follow.

Double or nothing. That is the prosecutor's attitude. The prosecutorial system has betrayed its professional responsibility. It has failed to clarify the legal status of the Discretionary Fund. It is evading its duty to investigate charges that the public prosecutor tampered with the defendant's depositions. It is playing dice with the justice system and the nation's welfare. These prosecutors may think they are gambling only with their own legal reputations and political futures. In fact they are gambling away the nation's system of criminal justice and constitutional government.

As they see it, their high stakes gamble favors the prosecutorial system. The appeals process has many possible outcomes. Only one, being pronounced not guilty before the election, will be advantageous to Ma Ying-jeou. All other outcomes: being pronounced guilty before the election, being pronounced not guilty after the election, being pronounced guilty after the election but before assuming office, are disadvantageous to him. In other words, an appeal may not be able to bring down Ma Ying-jeou by means of the criminal justice system. But it may be able to bring down Ma Ying-jeou by means of the electoral system. In their eyes, the appeals process is not just a legal struggle, it is also a political struggle. Forcing the collegiate bench into the maelstrom of the presidential election mires Ma Ying-jeou in a political deadlock.

The prosecutorial system must first fulfill its professional responsibilities by reaching a unified opinion. It must fulfill its disciplinary responsibilities by conducting an internal investigation of Hou Kuan-jen. If the prosecution files an appeal after that, it may do so honorably and forthrightly. But it has not reached a unified opinion. It has not conducted an internal investigation. It has heedlessly and arbitarily filed an appeal. This is the behavior of triad thugs bent on revenge. This is the behavior of political opportunists willing to precipitate a political bloodbath to hide their own shortcomings. In order to prosecute a political enemy over a Discretionary Fund whose status remains indeterminate in nature, in order to shield a controversial Hou Kuan-jen, they are willing to gamble the nation's system of presidential elections and constitutional government. "Bad faith" does not begin to describe what is in their hearts.

The gaming table has two ends. At one end sits Hou Kuan-jen. who from the very beginning has politicized the Ma Ying-jeou case, and debased himself by becoming a political goon for his superiors in the prosecutorial system. At the other end sits the nation's system of criminal justice, constitutional law, and free and fair elections. So let's place our bets. So let's roll the dice. If the judiciary can bet against Chen Shui-bian and Wu Shu-chen, it should have no trouble betting against Hou Kuan-jen and Chen Tsong-ming.

2007.08.21 03:05 am









Monday, August 20, 2007

If You can't control Corruption, How can You control Flooding?

If You can't control Corruption, How can You control Flooding?
United Daily News (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 20, 2007

Typhoon Sepat has arrived. Fortunately its intensity has diminished. Also, strict measures in various locales have reduced the damage caused by the disaster. But the southern and central regions of the island have suffered repeated flood and wind damage. Many villages and towns have been devastated. Some victims say their world has been shattered. For Taiwan, typhoons are unavoidable natural disasters. But for certain regions, year after year of flooding is the result of man made disasters. When we address the problem of flooding, the important point is not flood control technology. To address the problem at its source, we must address the human factors.

This summer's floods in the southern and central regions were serious. Even before Typhoon Sepat struck, these regions had already become "Waterworld." From Yunlin and Chiayi, to Kaohsiung and Pingtung, no community escaped disaster. Even Kaohsiung City's Ai River overflowed. Flooding in Meinung was the worst in 50 years. Inhabitants said they had developed "flood phobia." One could say that the disaster was caused by torrential rains. But the amount of rainfall failed to break any records. Put simply, the drainage system in many places was inadequate, and essential flood control measures were not implemented. This is why many experts have come right out and declared that the disaster was man made, not natural.

President Chen Shui-bian, Prime Minister Chang Chun-hsiung, and other senior central government officials visited these rural disaster sites recently, promising to underwrite flood control measures. But the key to flood control isn't money. Last year the legislature passed the "Statute Governing Flood Management," with a budget of 1.16 billion NT. Every one of the counties and municipalities flooded this year received generous flood control funding. Yunlin County even declared 2007 its official "Flood Control Year." Obviously their flood control measures failed. So where did their flood control funds go?

Every dollar of the vast sums earmarked for flood control was hard-earned taxpayer money. Every step of the flood control process, from legislation to implementation, was riddled with selfish plunder by corrupt politicians. The Democratic Progressive Party's intitial proposal for its "Eight Year, 80 Billion" Flood Control budget was, as its name suggests, 80 billion. Last January, on the final day of the Legislative Yuan's extraordinary session, ruling and opposition party lawmakers upped the amount to over 110 billion NT. To people who had pinned their hopes on flood control, this was the Legislative Yuan's darkest day. Because these sorts of sweeheart deals, hammered out in smoke-filled rooms, were exactly what they were worried about. The lessons of history are right under our noses. Previous flood control budgets were often chopped up into scores of contracts, each under 1 million Yuan. This allowed them to get them around legal requirements mandating open bidding, and created a paradise for political patronage. As this paper noted at the time, how can one control river flooding by doling out contracts to scores of contractors, each with budget of 1 million NT ($30,000 US)?

The 30 billion NT budget for the first phase of this eight year flood control project was passed last July. The total sum is to be be raised by means of a bond issue. Local government flood control plans included the construction of pavilions, arched bridges, the renovation of nearby temples and their surroundings, the development of tourism, the clean up of garbage, and the beautification of farmlands. Much of their planning has nothing to do with flood control. Obviously no one is focused on flood control. Everyone is worried about getting a piece of the pie.

But the really big "sharks" within the construction industry only surfaced this month, when public prosecutors cast their dragnet. Chang Tzu-hou and Hou Ho-hsiung of the Ministry of Economic Affairs have been implicated in these "Eight year, 80 billion" flood control projects. In accordance with embezzlement laws they have been detained by public prosecutors. According to prosecutors, Hou Ho-hsiung abused his authority to grant sweetheart deals. First he demanded that the authorities award small 1 million NT ($30,000 US) contracts to scores of contractors. He then helped designated contractors make sweetheart deals. The provincial water supply company and the River Administration Bureau have been implicated in these cases. A year and half ago this newspaper asked how can one control flooding by doling out contracts to scores of contractors, each with budget of 1 million NT ($30,000 US)? Now, between this year's unusually serious floods in southern and central Taiwan and Hou Ho-hsiung's indictment, we have our answer.

The wind and rain arrived on August 18, in the early hours of the morning. Many victims were still up their necks in flood water at the time. Su Tseng-chang had just returned from the US. Frank Hsieh had just gone to the airport to greet him. Their meeting was for all intents and purposes the first political rally held by the Hsieh/Su ticket. Frank Hsieh took pains to stress that Su Tseng-chang's return to Taiwan was by no means for the sake of the election. It was to participate in collective prayer "for the people." It was to show that candidates of the Democratic Progressive Party "feel your pain." But ordinary people feeling the pain inflicted by the flood felt Hou Ho-hsiung and his ilk were to blame. They couldn't have failed to notice that Hou Ho-hsiung is Frank Hsieh's trusted subordinate. Hou was Hsieh's deputy mayor in Kaohsiung, and Hsieh recommended Hou for the position of Minister of Financial Affairs. Taiwan's frequent floods are caused by official corruption related to flood control projects. Su Tseng-chang and Frank Hsieh are both former prime ministers. The corruption occurred on their watch. Can they really escape responsibility for these man made disasters? Aren't high minded expressions of concern and pious participation in prayer activities, after the fact, more than a little ironic?

The typhoon season has provided the people with a way out. First one must address the problem of a political culture dominated by greed and corruption. Only then can one address the problem of flooding and govern the nation.

2007.08.20 06:05 am









Thursday, August 16, 2007

Let the Discretionary Fund Battle End Here

Let the Discretionary Fund Battle End Here
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 16, 2007

Ma Ying-jeou has been found not guilty in the first instance of the Discretionary Fund case. Can we call a halt to this pointless confrontation and say "This ends here"? Judging by the reaction from the prosecutor, the Green camp, and above all the Hsieh camp, apparently not. Apparently this was merely the first round. Far more pointless confrontation lies ahead of us.

If the prosecutor appeals the verdict and demands a retrial in the High Court, the Republic of China's court of second instance, the real flash point will be its verdict early next year. In which case Ma Ying-jeou and the Kuomintang truly can afford to be happy for only one day. Because this amounts to advance notification that from the end of this year until the election, the only issue is going to be the Ma Ying-jeou Discretionary Fund issue. The legislative election will revolve endlessly around this issue. So will the presidential election. The term "pointless confrontation" will be inadequate to describe Taiwan's political scene.

To flex their political muscles or even to save face, the prosecutors have abundant motive for demanding an appeal. Especially public prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen, who must confront the barrage of accusations within the court's written judgment. He has reacted, calling it "unacceptable" and "inconsiderate." If he fails to appeal it might be perceived as an admission of defeat. Unfortunately if Hou Kuan-jen insists on filing an appeal, the resulting dispute is going to be far more than a "pointless confrontation." Hou Kuan-jen may not give a damn about outside objections to the human rights violations he committed during his prosecution of the case. But he has no choice but to consider the potential repercussions of his obstinate demand for a retrial.

Between Ma Ying-jeou's indictment and the court of first instance's written judgment, a truth has emerged. Hou Kuan-jen's legal opinion on the Discretionary Fund Case differs from the Ministry of Justice's, It differs from fellow public prosecutor Eric Chen's, It differs from Tainan Public Prosecutor Chen Ming-chin's. It differs from presiding judge Tsai Shou-hsun's. Those who differ with Hou Kuan-jen differ from each other only in minor details. In short, Hou Kuan-jen is alone in his opinion. But so far the Ministry of Justice and the High Court Prosecutor's Office have made no effort to reach a consensus on the legal status of the Discretionary Fund. In other words, Hou Kuan-jen is clinging to his idiosyncratic opinion in the hope that a High Court judge will share his viewpoint. If this happens, local prosecutors in the north and south will hold conflicting opinions. High Court prosecutors will hold conflicting opinions. Judges will hold conflicting opinions. Different officials using Discretionary Funds in the same manner could receive diametrically opposite indictments from different prosecutors, and even diametrically opposite written judgments from different judges. If this doesn't constitute chaos, what does? If the ROC judicial system permits this scenario to materialize, then the curses uttered by Hsieh camp legislator Wang Shih-chien, Hsieh Hsing-ni, and Lin Kuo-ching will come true.

The public has seen the relish with which Hou Kuan-jen prosecuted the Ma Ying-jeou Discretionary Fund Case. It has seen his obvious reluctance to prosecute the Green Princes of the DPP. The court of first instance has handed down a verdict in the Ma Ying-jeou Discretionary Fund case. Hou Kuan-jen has declared that it is inapplicable to the Green Princes of the DPP. He has declared that "the case is already far along, and involved parties will be subpoenaed in the near future." In other words, if the not guilty verdict in the Ma Ying-jeou Discretionary Fund case doesn't let the Four Green Princes of the DPP off the hook, the general public will most assuredly fix on two points. Point One: Will Hou Kuan-jen prosecute Ma Ying-jeou full force in the second instance? Will he attempt to bring the prosecution of the Four Green Princes of the DPP up to speed? How will he explain himself if the gap between his handling of the Four Green Princes of the DPP and his handling of Ma Ying-jeou grows ever wider? Point Two: Will he use the same reasoning while prosecuting the Four Green Princes of the DPP? Will he prosecute the Four Green Princes of the DPP over the question of receipts? Will he prosecute them with the same eagerness he prosecuted Ma Ying-jeou? Will he prosecute them for embezzlement, abuse of authority, and betray of public trust? Only Hou Kuan-jen knows.

The Green camp naturally wants to appeal Ma Ying-jeou's Discretionary Fund case. Theoretically an appeal will hobble Ma Ying-jeou during next year's election, the way it has over the past year. If only Ma Ying-jeou could be found guilty just before the election, they could win without a fight. Unfortunately this is wishful thinking. What if the second verdict finds Ma Ying-jeou innocent, just as before? Are they going to curse the judiciary again? If the Green Princes of the DPP are indicted for embezzlement or betrayal of public trust, won't all the mud the Green camp has flung at Ma Ying-jeou wind up on the Green Princes of the DPP? They will find out soon enough.

Naturally Ma Ying-jeou wants this pointless confrontation to end. No defendant found not guilty in his first trial wants a retrial. But even supposing Ma's characterization of the proceedings as "pointless confrontation" is overstated, appealing the Discretionary Fund case will only land everyone in the same hot water. If that happens, no one will be able to gloss over the problem with euphemisms. Therefore, a word of warning to the public prosecutors. The issue is not about semantics, but real world consequences. Let the Discretionary Fund battle end here.

中國時報  2007.08.16








Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Unified Opinion before Any Appeal

A Unified Opinion before Any Appeal
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 15, 2007

The Taipei District Court has found Ma Ying-jeou innocent. Conversely, by implication, it has found that Public Prosecutor Hou Kuan-ren twisted the law and engaged in false prosecution. It is time for Ma Ying-jeou to heal his wounds. It is also time for prosecutors to feel shame, acknowledge wrongdoing, and engage in some serious soul searching.

The average person is probably more concerned about whether Ma Ying-jeou is found guilty or innocent. We are more concerned about whether this case has revealed arrogance of power and shameless political bias. Now that the public prosecutor has lost the first instance, he must decide whether to appeal within ten days. We strenuously urge prosecutors to arrive at a uniform opinion on the Discretionary Fund before any decision to appeal, in order to avoid compounding past mistakes.

Hou Kuan-ren refused to work with other prosecutors to arrive at a unified opinion before proceding with the Discretionary Fund case. He went after Ma Ying-jeou on his own. The result was a bizarre prosecutorial "north/south divide." The court has recognized the Discretionary Fund as a "substantive subsidy." Prosecutors however have still not reached a consensus. Hou Kuan-ren continues to sit on the "Four Princes of the DPP" Special Expenses Cases, making zero progress. The presiding judge repudiated Hou Kuan-ren's spin on the Discretionary Fund case. Hou's spin isn't even shared by his fellow prosecutors, many of whom are diametrically opposed. Hou Kuan-ren couldn't wait to jump on the Ma Ying-jeou case. The "Four Princes of the DPP" case meanwhile, has been shoved into the back of who knows what disused file cabinet. Under such circumstances, how can Hou possibly appeal the Ma Ying-jeou case? How can he justify doing so? How can he maintain that his handling of this case bears the slightest resemblance to justice?

Besides, the court's written judgement notes that Hou Kuan-ren committed serious systemic and procedural violations. Systemicaly, as noted earlier, the court upheld the "substantive subsidy" thesis. Procedurally, Hou Kuan-ren's depositions for Ma Ying-jeou and Wu Li-ju were riddled with out of context quotes and leading questions. Therefore they lacked evidentiary force. Prosecutorial solidarity means prosecutors must offer a single standard of justice. All prosecutors must apply the same standards during their prosecutions. Prosecutorial solidarity does not mean that prosecutors should maintain a united front to cover for each others' failings. Prosecutors are supposed to be guardians of justice, not obdient henchmen of a privileged nomenklatura. Hou Kuan-ren's systemic and procedural violations reveal both macro and micro level problems. Prosecutors under Chen Tsung-ming's charge should stop what they are doing immediately. They should reflect on their past behavior, arrive at a consensus, then decide whether to appeal. After all, the prosecutorial system must not rubber stamp Hou Kuan-ren's individual opinions and positions. It must uphold the dignity of the justice system as a whole. Only then can it decide whether to appeal.

The written judgement expressed a number of views worth noting. First, the judge pointed out the public prosecutor's self contradiction. Ma Ying-jeou co-defendant Yu Wen was accused of falsely applying for 50,000 NT in petty cash from the Discretionary Fund. The public prosecutor, in his bill of indictment, wrote "Because the mayor had already verified his figures with his accountants, we had no idea where to begin checking Yu Wen's application for 50,000 NT in petty cash." This revealed that the public prosecutor knew perfectly well how the system worked. That was why he did not investigate any further. It would have been a simple matter for a public prosecutor to investigate Ma Ying-jeou the way he investigated a mid level official such as Yu Wen. In short, the public prosecutor contradicted himself on the Discretionary Fund Case.

The court's written judgement also cites the bill of indictment in the State Affairs Confidential Expenses Case. The court noted that when the same High Court Public Prosecutor's Office Anti-Corruption Center dealt with the State Affairs Confidential Expenses Case, its premise was that such usage "did not constitute criminal intent" and therefore did not dig any deeper than that. The public prosecutor adopted an extremely lenient attitude. The judge cited this as one reason to adopt an equally lenient attitude in Ma Ying-jeou's Discretionary Fund Case. In other words, the written judgement pointed out the discrepancy in the way the public prosecutor dealt with the State Affairs Confidential Expenses Case and the way it dealt with Ma Ying-jeou's Discretionary Fund Case. This of course was exactly what the public had been wondering about all along.

Furthermore, the chief prosecutor in this case could have adopted a different position on the Discretionary Fund. The written judgement mentions procedural problems in the way this case was handled. The prosecutor must face up to these problems and not evade them. One. The written judgment lists in detail discrepancies between witness Wu Li-ju's deposition and the investigation records, in addition to those the defense attorneys noted earlier. The judge's conclusion? The prosecutor's deposition was "riddled with suppositions, failed to wait for the defendant to respond, and treated grunts as answers." The prosecutor's deposition "lacked substance, and took quotes out of context." Two. The public prosecutor claimed that Ma Ying-jeou admitted the "Discretionary Fund was public money." When the judge checked the records however, he found that the public prosecutor was again making all sorts of suppositions while deposing Ma Ying-jeou. Ma Ying-jeou admitted to no such thing. The public prosecutor's bill of indictment did not jibe with Ma Ying-jeou's deposition, and "distorted the defendant's statements in a high handed manner." This constitutes a harsh condemnation of the public prosecutor. Prosecutors must deal with this matter before any appeal can have legitimacy.

As for the Discretionary Fund, the collegiate bench has accepted the "substantive subsidy" thesis. The court's written judgement notes that the Executive Yuan has never clarified the legal status of the Discretionary Fund. Official salaries could not be increased, but everyone still wanted a substantive subsidy. The provision that "Half the expenditures in one's Discretionary Fund account do not require receipts," was an expedient means of providing such a substantive subsidy. As long as officials abided by this rule, they were not in violation of the law. In the judge's opinion the system's established precedents created a legal pitfall. Therefore the system was to blame, and not any individual officials. This was poles apart from Hou Kuan-ren's wild accusations that Ma "resorted to deceit to acquire illicit wealth."

In short, public prosecutor Hou Kuan-ren perpetrated a long list of shocking systemic and procedural violations while prosecuting this case. He obstinately refused to consult with other prosecutors in order to arrive at a unified opinion. He forged depositions. His behavior left onlookers flabbergasted. If the prosecution wishes to appeal Ma Ying-jeou's case, then Hou Kuan-ren must indict the "Four Princes of the DPP." He simply cannot appeal the Ma Ying-jeou case, while refusing to even indict the "Four Princes of the DPP." Even if the prosecutorial system is unable to arrive at a single standard, can Hou Kuan-ren be permitted to apply two sets of standards? Would Hou Kuan-ren have us believe his sole duty is to prosecute the Ma Ying-jeou case? Is he a "single-purpose" prosecutor who has nothing else to do but to "get" Ma Ying-jeou?

According to precedent, if a public prosecutor loses a case in the first instance, he retains the right to appeal. But only if a public prosecutor is fulfilling his duty, not if he is embarked on a stubborn quest for vengeance. We hoped from the very beginning of this case, that prosecutors would engage in self introspection and admit possible mistakes. If in the course of the trial they discovered any systemic or procedural violations, they should not repeat their mistakes, but should acknowledge and correct them. After all, the purpose of the prosecutorial system is not to enable an individual prosecutor to save face. It is to ensure justice by maintaining the integrity of the judiciary. Therefore prosecutors should first reach a consensus. Only then should they decide whether to appeal.

Reaction from the Democratic Progressive Party following yesterday's judgment was intense. Some made "funeral arrangements" for the judiciary. Some snarled "Why don't we just go ahead and exonerate all mainlanders, and sentence all Taiwanese to death?" Make no mistake about it. The Democratic Progressive Party's response to the court's decision was not a declaration that the judiciary had died. It was a declaration that the Democratic Progressive Party wanted the judiciary dead. When presiding judge Tsai Shou-hsun got wind of the DPP's remarks, he smiled brightly and said, "I'm from Hsikou Village, Chiayi County. I'm Taiwanese."

Judge Tsai's casual remark revealed just how absurd politics on Taiwan had become, and the depths to which the justice system had sunk.

先定統一見解 再決定檢方是否上訴
2007.08.15 03:25 am













Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Taipei County wins the Lottery but can't collect the Prize

Taipei County wins the Lottery but can't collect the Prize
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 14, 2007

Taipei County's elevation to the status of Directly Administered Municipality means it has gained admission to an exclusive club consisting of the two wealthy metropolises, Taipei City and Kaohsiung City. At least that's what some people imagined. Who knew the central government had no follow up plans whatsoever? Instead it turned to Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, demanding that they cough up funds already allocated to them and share them with Taipei County. Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu expressed her displeasure by threatening to boycott Frank Hsieh's election campaign.

Chen Chu's anger is understandable. Counties and municipalities hope to have their legal status elevated because they wish to improve their economic prospects. They want comprehensive plans and concrete support, not reckless haste. They don't need pandering to voters without regard for the consequences. If the promotion of Taipei County requires the demotion of Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, what is that except "redistributing the poverty?"

Taipei County's promotion means it qualifies for 30 billion in central government funding. But most of that funding has already been canceled. Meanwhile, it has now become liable for central government expenditures such as health insurance and low income welfare subsidies. The result is it won't be enjoying any benefits whatsoever. This is like winning the lottery, uncorking the champagne, only to find out one won't be receiving any prize money, but must pay taxes on one's "winnings." Taipei City and Kaohsiung City are even worse off. Others win the lottery, but instead of getting to share the wealth, they get to share the poverty. They must endure a loss of tens of billions from their original budgets. What logic is there in this kind of policy making?

Taipei City, Taipei County, and Kaohsiung City are all opposed to the Executive Yuan's "equal division of spoils." The Executive Yuan's shell game has exposed the Chen regime's attitude for what it is -- superficially respectful but actually contemptuous. For years the Democratic Progressive Party harped on the necessity of promoting Taipei County to a Directly Administered Municipality. Every time an election rolled around, major or minor, this battle cry was heard. During his term as Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang repeatedly accused the Kuomintang of "obstructing" Taipei County's elevation in status. Chen Shui-bian repeatedly stressed that what Taipei County wanted was not to be merged into Taipei City, but to be independently promoted. Only three months ago, when the Legislative Yuan passed its Land Administration Act confirming Taipei County's promotion, the Chen regime attempted to claim credit. But now that it is unable to come up with funding, the central government is using the fact that Taipei County's elevation in status was "not an Executive Yuan inititative" as an excuse to do nothing. What is one to conclude from all this, except that the Democratic Progressive Party's sanctimonious demands were nothing but empty posturing?

Never last when taking credit. Always first when disowning responsibility. The public has long since seen through the Democratic Progressive Party's disingenuous sophistry. Democratic Progressive Party elders have long accused the Kuomintang of "favoring the north at the expense of the south." But once it was in power, they cited this as an excuse to persecute "mainlander" dominated Taipei City, to cut its funding, to humiliate these inhabitants of the nation's capital. But leave this aside for the moment. Chen Shui-bian has been in power for seven years. In all those years, what has he done to redress the imbalance between north and south? How does taking 10 billion from Kaohsiung's budget redress the imbalance between north and south?

The Chen regime's populist demagoguery may provoke a short term north vs. south confrontation. But it cannot promote southern Taiwan's long term prosperity. The ruling regime's talk of a "satellite capital" and of "sharing the national treasures" have encouraged people to migrate to the nation's capital. Taipei County now has over 3.6 million people. The central government has no choice but to promote it. But as we now see, it was all for show. Now Taoyuan County, with a population approaching 2 million, also wants in. When the time comes, can funds divided four ways really provide for Taipei City, Taipei County, Kaohsiung City, and Taoyuan County?

One could argue that the Democratic Progressive Party "expedited" Taipei County's elevation in status. The facts suggest otherwise, and expose the ruling DPP's hypocritical posturing for what it is. They show how opportunistic the DPP party hierarchy is when their members jockey with each other for short term political advantage. DPP policy makers no longer have any patience for long-term planning. Instead they behave as if they were street entertainers out for a quick buck plying their trade to passersby. This kind of "political achievement" is ubiquitous. Recently completed cultural centers have become disused "Halls for Mosquitos." Newly completed airports offer only one flight a day. Ordinary people have become marks at the mercy of con artists. What they envisioned was a wad of cash. What they got was disposable drink containers packaged to resemble a wad of cash.

Take the long debated subject of casinos for example. In a surprise move, Pingtung and Chiayi announced their intention to legalize gambling. Penghu reacted violently. If the ruling regime intended to grant gambling licenses to Pingtung and Chiayi on the main island, how did it expect casinos on the outer islands of Penghu to survive? The elevation of Taipei County's legal status and the establishment of casinos on Penghu are the same. They are both cases of having the name but not the game.

When Taipei County was elevated to the status of Directly Administered Municipality, county residents thought they had just caught the brass ring. The brass ring would turn out to be brass plate over base metal. This is the sort of metal the Democratic Progressive Party is made of. Why should Taipei and Kaohsiung be required to make good on the ruling DPP's rubber check? Chen Chu has asked the central government an embarrassing question. Now everybody is waiting to hear Chen Shui-bian, Su Tseng-chang, and Frank Hsieh's answers.

2007.08.14 03:41 am










Monday, August 13, 2007

Seven Years of Diplomatic Humiliation

Seven Years of Diplomatic Humiliation
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 13, 2007

While in Singapore, Frank Hsieh referred to the status quo that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is purportedly maintaining, as a state of independence. Chen Shui-bian meanwhile embarked on his last state visit of his second and final term. Before departure he described his visit as "humiliation in the national interest." This contrasts with Frank Hsieh's decidedly pragmatic stance regarding relations with close Asian neighbors and with Beijing. Some analysts interpret Chen Shui-bian's visit as an attempt to establish an "historical legacy" for his eight years on office.

Nobody can predict how future historians will evaluate Chen Shui-bian. But if his place in history is to be evaluated on the basis of his seven years of foreign diplomacy, we need not wait until historians pass judgement. We can give him a failing grade right now.

During his term of office President Chen has conducted a total of ten state visits, including this one. Each visit was given a long-winded, saccharine title, such as "Journey of Democracy, Diplomacy and Friendship" or "Journey of Democracy and Goodwill" or "Journey to Create Mutual Benefit and Embrace the World" or "Journey to Enhance Popularity." But no matter what names they were given, the destination of these state visits was never the point. The point was always which US cities one was transiting, both coming and going. Eventually Washington caught on to the DPP's real agenda and began playing this game too. As a result it became a barometer of the state of Washington-Taipei relations. It became an index of how much clout Chen Shui-bian had in Washington.

Let's take "Transit Diplomacy" as the measure of Chen's alleged legacy. During ten visits, Chen Shui-bian transited New York twice. Once in 2001, and once in 2003. In 2006, during his "Journey to Enhance Popularity," he was forced to detour through places such as Holland and Libya. The media labeled this fiasco the "Journey to Nowhere." After ten visits, Washington, DC, the actual destination of Chen Shui-bian's "Transit Diplomacy," has gotten farther and farther instead of closer and closer. The current visit is being touted as his "Farewell Visit," yet he is allowed to stop only briefly for refueling in Alaska, well outside the continental United States. He is not even allowed to spend the night. The level of treatment is the lowest in seven years. After seven years of diplomatic games, and ten state visits, what does Chen have to show for it except what he himself acknowledges as a "humiliation?" What other way is there to put it?

Let's take the issue of firming up relations with allied nations for example. Eight of these ten visits were to Central and South America. Obviously the region is of strategic importance to ROC diplomacy. President Chen must be present at the inaugurations of Central and South American presidents. Nor can he afford to be absent from Central American summit meetings. Yet despite all these efforts, all one hears is that "diplomatic relations with Nicaragua are in danger," or "diplomatic relations with Panama are on the verge of collapse." This forces the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to up the ante to shore up relations with these two countries behind the scenes. To everyones' surprise, Costa Rica, with which the ROC maintained friendly relations for half a century, broke off relations. Even more embarrassing was that it chose to announce the break during June this year, almost exactly one year after President Chen attended the Costa Rican president's inauguration ceremony. During Chen's "Journey of Friendship to Central and South American Allies," Saint Lucia cancelled at the last minute. Nicaragua, which was forced to receive President Chen twice in the same year, also appeared reluctant. After eight presidential visits, this last bastion of official ROC diplomacy appears ready to fall.

Regarding participation in international organizations, Not only have years of ruling DPP efforts to gain entry to the United Nations been exercises in futility, so have attempts to rejoin the WHO. Most importantly, in the past we had international support. Over the past two years, these voices of support have not been heard. The result of this year's "Join the UN under the Name of Taiwan Plebiscite" has been to push Washington even farther from Taipei. This year's treatment of Chen during his transit through the US is one indicator. Chen Shui-bian wrote to the United Nations asking to join under the name of "Taiwan," only to have it summarily rejected by trhe UN Secretary General and returned, unread. On top of which the growing global consensus in recent years has been, "Taiwan is the troublemaker." Few feel any sympathy for the international isolation of the Taiwan authorities. Is this the payoff for all those years of diplomatic game playing?

Many commentators invariably bring up Chinese Communist Party pressure. This accusation is not without basis. But when formulating ROC diplomatic strategy, any "Chinese Communist Party pressure" must be considered a constant, not a variable. Since the 70s, the cross Straits diplomatic tug of war has usually resulted in stalemate. Beijing has never once relented in its diplomatic pressure on Taipei. It made no difference whether the ruling party was Blue or Green. Therefore any responsible administration must seek maximum advantage in the face of this diplomatic pressure. It can hardly point to this pressure as an excuse to wallow in self pity and demand sympathy. Still less can it use it as a excuse to shirk responsibility.

Frank Hsieh made a point of stressing his cross Straits policy while in Singapore. He demonstrated his understanding of the dynamic relationship between the ROC's foreign policy and cross Straits policy. Chen Shui-bian only has a short time left in office. We don't know how long his diplomatic strategy can continue to tie down Frank Hsieh hand and foot. We don't know whether Frank Hsieh will regard Chen Shui-bian's diplomatic legacy as an asset or a liability. But as a voice of public opinion, we earnestly urge the ruling DPP to let professional diplomats engage in diplomacy. The ROC's diplomatic strategy can no longer be "dollar diplomacy" with no upper limit. It can no longer be "transit diplomacy" to enhance the prestige of the head of state. It can no longer be "scorched earth diplomacy" that plays on populist mob sentiment. It can no longer be "victim diplomacy" that deliberately invites humiliation in order to elicit sympathy. The purpose of diplomacy is to maximize the national interest. It must not become a public relations tool by which the head of state can enhance his personal image. It cannot become the ruling party's election tool. The ROC's diplomatic plight is difficult enough as it is. Its diplomatic resources are rapidly diminishing. We truly cannot afford to squander them in an ad libbed and spendthrift manner.

中國時報  2007.08.13