Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Who Will Do Justice to Our Democracy?

Who Will Do Justice to Our Democracy?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 29, 2009

"Haven't I contributed to Taiwan's democracy?" The Taipei District Court is trying former President Chen Shui-bian's family on four counts of corruption. Just before she was interrogated, former First Lady Wu Shu-chen spoke out. Wu Shu-chen was clearly indignant. Some people think the Chen family is making an emotional appeal prior to the first instance verdict. They think the Chen family is hoping to stir up old memories. They think it is turning the clock back to 24 years ago, when Wu Shu-chen suffered crippling spinal injuries in Tainan. They think it is turning the clock back to nine years ago, to the elation many experienced when the ROC underwent its first change in ruling parties. Perhaps the Chen family thinks this will inspire people to revise their image of the corrupt First Family. Wipe away the dust. Is the "Son of Taiwan" anywhere to be found? Is the heartfelt emotion between "Ah Bian and Ah-Cheng," the stuff of soap operas, anywhere to be found?

The Chen family is probably not alone in hoping to freeze that glorious moment in the history of democracy on Taiwan. Chen Shui-bian was not the only one who felt all was right with the world at that moment. How many champions of democracy felt unbounded gratification? How many people felt proud that "Taiwan" would henceforth go its own way? Wu Shu-chen naturally hoped to make an emotional appeal regarding the development of democracy on Taiwan. Wu Shu-chen was hardly alone in her desire. The development of democracy has touched many people, not just supporters of independence, not just supporters of Chen Shui-bian. Many of them truly want to shout "Yes!" Yes, Ah-Bian did nothing wrong. Yes, Ah-Cheng contributed to democracy on Taiwan. Unfortunately, the "Yes!" is stuck in their craw, and can't get out.

The wheels of time roll on relentlessly. They roll past the initial joy and pride at the first change in ruling parties. The Cape Seven Hundred Million, the Cape Hundreds of Millions, and the endless lies, have finally shaken us from our stupor. Wu Shu-chen said being bound to a wheelchair for 24 years was a fate worse than death. Wu Shu-chen reproached her husband for being a political animal and neglecting her. But many people are now sufficiently awake to respond to her emotional appeals with a clear head. We are sufficiently awake to draw clear lines of distinction. Prosecutors draw those lines in accordance with the law. For diehard supporters of the Ah-Bian family that line is about more than cold legal provisions. They draw those lines in accordance with human nature. But when it comes to the Chen family, public tolerance has reached its limit. And who is responsible for that?

The Chen case is now reaching its climax. But wheelchair bound Wu Shu-chen has never been the underdog. As Koo Chung-liang remarked, she has long been the power behind the throne, the one who has the final say on countless matters. When Chen Shui-bian was at the height of his power, wheelchair bound Ah-Cheng displayed a cheerful, cordial, humorous, and direct manner. During her visit to the United States, the media even described the First Lady as humorous and at ease. The media reported that the ruling and opposition parties in the United States were moved, and that she had won respect and dignity for "Taiwan." What a glorious time that was!

Wu Shu-chen's years in her wheelchair have been filled with glory and laughter. They were not all years of unspeakable pain spent consulting with anonymous psychiatrists. She has described Chen Shui-bian as a political animal. She said "Chen Shui-bian is tap water. He has no flavor. But without him, I cannot survive." Her daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching was close to her, and gained her trust. Fear of Wu's wrath was not the only emotion Huang felt. That is why Wu took the precaution of putting half the money in her overseas accounts in her son's name. Wu Shu-chen also looked at Chao Chien-ming the way a mother-in-law looks at her son-in-law. She was not always denouncing him as an "ostrich with his head in the sand." Wu Shu-cheng's life has had its moments of joy, dignity, and honor. She possesses vast wealth. She wielded immense power. She has had so much. So what turned her life into what it is now? As she puts it, now all she wants is a bullet to the head to end her life. From Chen Shui-bian's "two bullets" to Wu Shu-chen's "one bullet," what did this family experience, what did this family do, that put the public through such an ordeal?

No one doubts that wheelchair bound Wu Shu-chen has endured a great deal of hardship, pain, and suffering. But no matter how tragic her plight might be, it cannot justify her illegal conduct. Chen Shui-bian was indeed a key figure in the island's democratization. But in a democratic society under the rule of law, no one has the right to engage in corruption. Chen Shui-bian and Wu Shu-chen are no exceptions. The justice system cannot write off the Chen family's crimes with a stroke of the pen, merely because wheelchair-bound Wu Shu-chen found life too dull, too bitter, and too tragic, or because Chen Shui-bian was the first president of the ROC following the change in ruling parties. Chen Shui-bian has long said "I believe in Taiwan." Wu Shu-chen and the members of the First Family need to understand that the society they claim to believe in has evolved to the point where it can examine such matters with a cool eye. People have enough discernment to know that a disgruntled spouse and a defacto Empress who brokers illegal deals are two different things, that wheelchairs and money laundering are also two different things.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2009.07.29







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