Four Years Later: Nominating Huang Shi-ming
amidst Applause and Hisses
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 27, 2010
President Ma Ying-jeou has nominated Huang Shi-ming Prosecutor General. Inspection Commission spokesman Chen Chi-ming termed it a "belated appointment."
In March 2006, Chen Shui-bian nominated Hsieh Wen-ting Prosecutor General. In January 2007 he nominated Chen Tsung-ming. At the time everyone wondered "Why didn't he nominate Huang Shi-ming?" Four years later, Ma Ying-jeou has replaced Chen Shui-bian. Chen Shui-bian has been convicted in the first instance for corruption. Chen Tsung-ming, the first Prosecutor General under the new system, has been impeached by the Control Yuan and forced to resign. Huang Shi-ming has finally been nominated. During the past four years, Chen Shui-bian has been convicted, and Chen Tsung-ming has been impeached. The cost to society has been high. The political system and justice system have experienced severe shocks. Huang Shi-ming's nomination now, may be even more appropriate than his nomination four years ago, because the lessons learned may keep us from repeating them in the future. We hope this "belated appointment" for which we have paid a heavy price, will yield a belated return, and have a belated impact.
Over the past four years, the nomination process for the Prosecutor General has repeatedly provoked controversy. Chen Tsung-ming, the new Prosecutor General, is an individual who provokes controversy. In the eyes of the public, Huang Shi-ming has long been the ideal nominee. He is even regarded as the only solution to an institutional impasse. Given the social climate, President Ma had no alternative but to nominate Huang Shi-ming. The public would not have accepted any other candidate. Yesterday people were asking "Why wasn't Huang Shi-ming nominated?" Today people are saying "Huang Shi-ming has belatedly been nominated." Such public expectations, viewed optimistically, are the key that can break the deadlock. Such public expectations, viewed pessimistically, are the seeds of an even greater crisis. Suppose Huang Shi-ming lets us down? How will the public react? This constitutes a potential judicial and political crisis. It is also a test of Huang Shi-ming's personal reputation.
We believe the judiciary has many people like Huang Shi-ming. But four years of political chaos have turned Huang Shi-ming into a moral paragon. This is a cross Huang Shi-ming may have to bear upon assuming office. Consider the superlatives the public has heaped upon him: judicial iron man, never bows to power, a paragon of moral rectitude, meticulous, utterly without favoritism, untouchable. In today's world, such a person amounts to a fictional hero. No wonder some say his appointment invited "hisses amongst the applause." Some say he is impervious to reason, that his appointment was overkill, that he is too strict, too straightlaced, too extreme, too inflexible, does not communicate with legislators, and is therefore unsuitable as Prosecutor General. Before Huang Shi-ming was nominated, he was regarded as The One. Now that he has been nominated, some fear he will enforce the law with Draconian harshness. Huang Shi-ming will soon be appointed Prosecutor General in the midst of such contradictory public sentiment. One can say that the road is long and the load is heavy.
Frankly, like the public, we expect a great deal from Huang Shi-ming. But will his severe character make him unsuitable for the job? We are unsure. We are sure only that the public does not want a slick Prosecutor General. It does not want a smooth Prosecutor General. Huang Shi-ming has been described as a "nerdy style judge," reticent about making friends, austere in his dining habits, not inclined to socialize. " He is self-disciplined, dislikes the limelight, enjoys solitude, and socializes as little as possible. If he were to appear at the same social gathering as Chen Tsung-ming, Shih Mao-lin, and Huang Fang-yen, his taciturn style would be the most practical and effective means of dealing with the hydra-headed judicial reform program,
The judicial process is corrupt mainly because justice system officials have been corrupted by improper personal relationships between the justice system and the political system, or the justice system and business interests. Given the proliferation of such relationships, deals have surely been made. The ruling administration is in a position to grant official posts. Businessmen are in a position to offer banquets or gifts. Administrative chiefs have discretionary powers, and for businessmen, banquets and gifts are a drop in the bucket. But when administration officials or businessmen offer justice system officials a quid pro quo, they are buying and selling justice, they are twisting and distorting justice. Yeh Sheng-mao leaked the contents of the Egmont Group report to Chen Shui-bian. Shi Mao-ling and Chen Tsung-ming visited Huang Fang-yen at his private residence. Chen Tsung-ming attended banquets thrown by businessmen under indictment. They were reproached for buying and selling justice, something the public cannot tolerate.
For one hand to wash the other, both hands must understand each other. The public is confident that President Ma would never strike a political deal with justice system officials. Wang Ching-feng and Huang Shi-ming belong to a generation of justice system officials whose personal dealings are open and above board. We must treasure this opportunity to clarify the relationship between politics and the law. We must establish a new tradition, based on the principle that "the ruling authorities will not buy justice, and justice system officials will not sell justice." Only with such a foundation, can we talk about judicial reform in other areas.
Huang Shi-ming says he does not seek fame. Today, because he does not seek fame, he has found fame. Huang Shi-ming's reputation was given to him by the public, not by the ruling authorities. Quite the contrary. The ruling authorities are often reluctant to praise justice system officials. Praise from them often hurts the reputations of justic system officials. The Ma administration should consider this a warning. Huang Shi-ming should consider this an encouragement. If they do so, this appointment just might not disappoint the public. It just might establish a new model for reform, and new traditions for the justice system as a whole, and Huang Shi-ming as an individual.
2010.01.27 01:38 pm