A Bian is Willing to Split the DPP to Protect Himself
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 13, 2008
For members of the Green Camp and the Democratic Progressive Party who still respect democracy, the Chen family money-laundering fiasco is a nightmare from which they cannot awake. When the overseas money-laundering scandal exploded on August 14, the DPP had a chance to make break with A Bian and rehabilitate itself. But the DPP Central Committee's hesitancy and indecisiveness allowed pro-A Bian forces to seize the initiative. A Bian held a series of rallies to garner support. The DPP was unable to stop the bleeding. Worse still, now that A Bian has made his move, the party faces the prospect of a major schism.
Chen Fang-ming is the Director of the Institute of Taiwan Literature at National Chengchi University. He has performed a number of in-depth studies on Taiwan's democracy movement. Chen Fang-ming has expressed regret over Chen Shui-bian's words and deeds on several occasions. When A Bian boasted he would run for president in 2012, Chen Fang-ming said "Chen Shui-bian has gone mad." But he added that having a bunch of lunatics run for president will give the public a chance to repudiate them. Therefore it does not matter if Chen Shui-bian is crazy. "Once the fever breaks, Taiwan can return to normal."
Chen Fang-ming's hope is shared by others concerned about Taiwan's democracy. After all, democratic elections and the rule of law are democracy's last line of defense. Very few DPP defectors have ever succeeded in winning political office. If Chen Shui-bian insists on running, he will not be an exception.
Given the Democratic Progressive Party's record over the past few years, it can hardly afford to be optimistic. President Chen Shui-bian's eight years in office have destroyed the Democratic Progressive Party's core values. Some DPP elders and factions have been affected less than others. But none have been spared entirely. A Bian has painted himself into a corner. But when A Bian fights like a cornered rat, and resorts to any and all means at his disposal, the real loser will be the DPP. That worries many who are concerned about Taiwan's democracy.
Chao Chien-ming is Chen Shui-bian's son-in-law, and a prime suspect in the Taiwan Development Corporation insider trading scandal. During the Chen administration, one scandal has erupted after another, culminating in the overseas money-laundering scandal of August this year. Chen Shui-bian and the Green Camp have a pro forma response to these scandals. One. They admit to minor crimes in order to evade prosecution for major crimes. The DPP and the Green Camp's initial reaction to the overseas money-laundering scandal was to feign outrage and to hurl invectives. Later A Bian mobilized advocates of Taiwan independence to shield himself. Critics inside the party fell silent. A Bian has used this method to ignore the Democratic Progressive Party's calls for clean government and democracy.
In the process, the Democratic Progressive Party and the Green Camp have steadily lowered their moral standards. The most obvious example was on August 14. Chen knew the cat was out of the bag. Therefore he admitted to overseas money-laundering. But he gave it his own spin. He raised the stakes by recruiting advocates of Taiwan independence. He even used such incendiary language as "Mainlanders get to eat rice. Taiwanese get to eat shit." This time, not one DPP heavyweight raised any objections. During the Democratic Progressive Party's anniversary celebration, Party Chairman Tsai Ing-wen did not even dare use the relatively moderate term, "the post-Chen era." The Democratic Progressive Party Committee for Clean Government's feeble response was, "If Chen is found guilty in the first instance, his party membership will be revoked."
The DPP Central Committee's feebleness has allowed A Bian to gain the upper hand. The crowds who showed up at Chen's rallies were sparse. But more than a few DPP officials competed among themselves for their approval. A Bian's words and deeds have become increasingly outrageous. Hsu Hsin-liang's simple remark, "A Bian has become a liability," provoked massive attacks. Wang Tuoh could not resist criticizing the DPP, saying that "The party's problem is it values friendship over truth, and has forgotten its core values." Not only did the mob attack him, so did key DPP players such as Chen Tang-shan.
A Bian has exploited internal grievances and next year's County Magistrate and City Mayoral Elections to encourage factional struggles within the DPP, thereby protecting himself. Tsai Ing-wen must cope with a factional balance of terror. Despite her systematic efforts, she has missed the boat. For the sake of next year's County and Municipal Elections, Tsai must ensure unity within the Democratic Progressive Party. But A Bian has no qualms about destroying the DPP. To save himself, A Bian is willing to risk splitting the DPP in two.
Chen Shui-bian is out of office and in disgrace. Yet he is still able to manipulate the DPP. The only reason being he still wields money and power. The myth of Taiwanese nation-building is A Bian's all powerful talisman. Taiwan independence elders are only too willing to cover for Chen Shui-bian. Two years ago, during the State Affairs Fund scandal, Taiwan independence advocates urged A Bian must not to relinquish his right to criminal immunity. When members of the DPP demanded serious soul-searching, Taiwan independence advocates denounced them as "Eleven Brigands selling out Taiwan." Taiwan independence advocates' supported A Bian uncritically. They ignored right and wrong. Ironically A Bian is repaying them by embezzling state funds, by laundering money, and by dressing up his ill-gotten gains as a "Taiwan Independence Fund." Taiwanese nation-building has become A Bian's "get out of jail free card." It has become his license to launder money. Taiwanese nation-building has become a mere tool. Taiwanese nation-building has been utterly discredited.
Former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang astutely noted that KMT incompetence has led to a swift decline in the ruling KMT's approval ratings. Ironically, this has led to an equally swift decline in the DPP's willingness to engage in necessary soul-searching. A Bian is a tar baby. The DPP is stuck to him, unable to extricate itself. The biggest victim in the short term is the Democratic Progressive Party. The DPP has long billed itself as the party of clean government and Taiwanese nativism. A Bian has cast a shadow over that image. The DPP is unable to re-position itself because it has lost its moral compass. Therefore no matter how inept the KMT's rule, it can nevertheless win lying down. If in the long run, the Democratic Progressive Party goes down with A Bian, so will Taiwan's democracy. This is the gravest concern of all.