Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Taiwan Businessman's Newspaper Ad and the Rule of Law

A Taiwan Businessman's Newspaper Ad and the Rule of Law
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 23, 2008

Yesterday Taiwan businessman Wu Chen-shun bought a full-page ad on page A14 of the United Daily News. He related bizarre and painful experience of doing business in Qingdao, on the mainland. He openly called for authorities on both sides of the Strait to ensure justice on his behalf.

Reading the full-page ad Wu Chen-shun took out is shocking enough. We lack first-hand information about the incident. But the ad included a letter to SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung and to ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin, saying: "Please contact concerned departments as soon as possible to ascertain the facts, and deal with the matter in accordance with the law." This suggests that Wu Chen-shun's petition has considerable basis in fact.

Since cross-Strait exchanges began, many inspiring stories have emerged, such as that of Master Kong, the instant noodles maker. But at times reports have also emerged of disputes and even tragedies involving mainland officials. We are convinced that these negative incidents are not something the Beijing authorities want to see happening. Some cases of official corruption the Beijing authorities have found particularly intolerable. If the Beijing authorities can uncover the truth in such incidents, and ensure justice, not only will the rights and interests of Taiwan businessmen will be protected, it would amount to a feather in the Beijing authorities' cap. It would benefit cross-Strait relations. It would also help the Beijing authorities to establish clean government and to improve their public image.

Wu Chen-shun's tale leaves one shocked and incredulous. In 1993 he was invited to Qingdao City in Shandong Province by leaders at various levels. He registered three companies In Qingdao, one after the other. Over time he invested 100 million USD. He calculated that if he enhanced the prosperity of the Laoshan region, land prices would soar.

His nightmare began in May 2004. First he was accused of "owning a private army, firearms, and rocket launchers that could reach Beijing in 10 minutes." After the charges were proven to be baseless, new charges were brought, and he was remanded to a detention center in Jinan. "I do not know why I am being held. I do not know when I will be released." Due to mistreatment in the detention center, he climbed the prison wall and escaped. He said: "Who would have imagined that a person in charge of a company worth billions would wind up fleeing in the middle of the night like a common criminal? During my escape, I fell into a three-story-high valley and was almost killed. They sent out nearly 1,000 police and police dogs, recaptured me, and threw me back in the detention center."

Eventually, Wu Chen-shun was released. He had been detained for seven months. He was released on grounds that "following a prolonged investigation, he was found innocent of criminal activity." When he emerged from his dungeon, Wu Chen-shun discovered his businesses had been looted. His six major assets had been transferred to or auctioned off to certain parties by all means available. For example, within four days, his Qingdao International Beer City, in which he had invested 500 million yuan, accumulated 509 million in debt and went bankrupt. Five hundred acres of land were resold. His Edinburgh Garden, with 162 acres of land, was transferred to someone else on the morning just before he was released.

Wu Chen-shun's experience is reminiscent of what many Taiwan businessmen have encountered in the past. The legal process is ugly. Wu Chen-shun said he didn't know why he had been detained, or why he was later released. He was unable to report the case to any of the various departments, such as the Public Security Bureau, Public Prosecutors, or the Courts. Still less was he able to file a complaint. Other cases like this often involve local party and government officials. The party machinery and government machinery automatically favor the victimizer, and become an accomplice in the crime. The victim ends up like a bug splattered on a windshield. Often the bigger the interests at stake, the worse political persecution the victim encounters. In the case of Wu Chen-shun, it led to the incredible scenario of a businessman in charge of billions being forced to flee in the middle of the night.

Cross-Strait exchanges are increasing rapidly. Both Taiwan investments on the mainland and mainland investments on Taiwan involve individual cases of commercial exchange. They promote a win/win cross-Strait scenario. They enhance cross-Strait peace and friendship. Authorities on both sides of the Strait hope that people-to-people cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges will enhance cross-Strait relations. Their most basic responsibility is to ensure that decent, honest people are protected by the rule of law.

In fact, the "rule of law" that Hu Jintao champions is basic. The result must be the legal protection of Taiwan businessmens' rights and interests. If the rule of law can be implemented, Taiwan businessmen's rights will naturally be protected. The Beijing authorities' concept of the "rule of law" must not be destroyed by evil individuals. This is true for both Taiwan businessmen and for people on the mainland. We must speak up, not merely on behalf of Wu Chen-shun and other Taiwan businessmen. We must look forward to the promulgation of the rule of law on the Chinese mainland.

2008.07.23 03:12 am










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