Truth of the Sean Lien Shooting Incident Must Not Be Lost
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 9, 2010
Nearly half a month has passed since Sean Lien was shot. The shooter has been apprehended. The gun used has been taken into evidence. Yet scant progress has been made in the case. Speculation remains rampant. Conspiracy theories continue snowballing. Pan Greens accuse prosecutors and police of staging the incident in collusion with high-ranking government officials. Pan Blues suspect that prosecutors and police are attempting to close the books on the case by dismissing it as a case of manslaughter. Rumors have been floated that prosecutors and police have grievances with each other. The case remains unsolved, even as various parties continue spreading rumors. Sean Lien, the victim, and members of his family are extremely unhappy. Logically speaking, this should be an open and shut case, Yet it has turned into a three ring circus, The only term to describe it is "Outrageous!"
The Sean Lien shooting incident is nothing like the 3/19 shooting hoax. In the 3/19 shooting hoax, investigators wanted the public to believe the perpetrator was a dead man. Investigators uncovered the bullets but not the gun, making it impossible to match the bullets to the gun. In the Sean Lien shooting case on the other hand, the shooter was apprehended on the spot. The bullets were found. Everyone in attendance at the political rally, on the podium and in the audience, witnessed the shooting first hand. So why has the case dragged on for nearly half a month?
The suspect Lin Cheng-wei has family and friends. As he went about his daily life, he left a trail of clues. A record of the phone calls he made before the incident occurred is available. Whom did he call? What did he talk about? If Lin is to be believed, his target was Xinbei City city councilor Chen Hung-yuan. According to Lin, he and Chen Hung-yuan clashed over local political interests. If so, records will reveal the involvement of the disputants and intermediaries, including Chen himself. What possible excuse can there be for failure to uncover the truth? If Chen committed unlawful acts that provoked the shooting, prosecutors and police must get to the bottom of the matter. They must not pull their punches merely because Chen was elected mayor.
The gun Lin Cheng-wen used in the shooting was not cheap. This is the first time such a gun has been used by triads on Taiwan. Given Lin's background, did he have the wherewithal or means to afford such a firearm? If he do not, then who supplied him with it? Given the special nature of the gun used in the shooting, the allegation that Lin Cheng-wen and Chen Hung-yuan had some sort of personal grudge remains unpersuasive. Lin carried out his shooting execution style, at close range, during a political rally in a public venue. He surely knew he would be captured. If someone paid him a generous sum of money for the job, what good is it going to do him? If any money or property changed hands, someone close to him, either family or friends, would have to be the beneficiary. Is it really so difficut to inventory their cash flow?
The shooting occurred just before election day. Political repercussions are inevitable. But we cannot permit the incident to be politicized ad infinitum. Doing so would mask the truth of the case. The Green Camp has scoffed that the case cannot be broken because the conspiracy was poorly scripted. But who who in the Blue Camp would have the temerity to shoot the son of former Vice President and KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan, in order to Influence the election? Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Yi-ying even alleged that because of Sean Lien's privileged status, the Ma administration provided him with bodyguards. Chiu Yi-ying has been a legislator for many years. Is she truly unaware that in a homicide case, even when a shooting victim does not request special protection, police routinely provide the victim with protection until the case is officially closed. Must even a crime victim's personal safety be given Blue or Green political spin?
The Lien family is extremely unhappy with the widespread rumors about the case. Rumors have even emerged from within the Blue Camp. According to the rumor, immediately after the shooting, the presidential office and the legislative caucus cautioned party officials against making political hay out of the incident. According to the rumor, they deliberately attempted to downplay the political element. This rumor is baffling in its logic. Who in the Blue Camp would dare contemplate playing Russian Roulette with Sean Lien's life? When Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu heard the news, he immediately cancelled all political rallies. He didn't not wait for instructions from high officials in the presidential office or the legislative caucus. No normal person can possibly believe that Sean Lien would become a target for political reasons. Are we to believe that Lin had an ideological position regarding reunification vs. independence?
DPP officials have alleged that the Sean Lien shooting incident was "staged and enacted by Lien himself" with "expert guidance." Sean Lien is outraged by such allegations. He may appear in public to explain. He has also suggested that video tapes of the shooting be made public, allowing the truth to emerge. Prosecutors have refused to release the video tapes, claiming that this may lead to collusion among witnesses, and adversely affect the investigation. In fact the media was present on the night of the incident and during the following several days. The footage has already been made public. Everyone in the country has seen televised footage of the shooting. The shooting is a fact. It could not possibly have been faked. The important point is why Lin Cheng-wei targeted Sean Lien. Was it merely because Sean Lien was a public figure? Or do other hidden factors figure into the case?
The practice of "not making public the progress of an Investigation" is motivated by the desire to respect human rights. It is also a matter of Investigative technique. But what justification is there for not making public the progress of an investigation, giving spin doctors carte blanche to spread misleading rumors? A rumor has even been floated that local police learned of the attempt before the shooting took place. According to the rumor, they refrained from passing the information onto their superiors because they wanted to take credit for stopping the assassination attempt themselves. Such rumors defy common sense. Suppose they had advance knowledge yet failed to deploy more personnel? If they failed to prevent the shooting, they would be terminated summarily. What credit would there be for them to take?
The Sean Lien shooting incident occurred half a month ago. The wild speculation can all be refuted with the simple truth. But in the Blue vs. Green political arena, spin doctors using the least scientific, most underhanded methods can always sow unfounded suspicions in the public imagination. These suspicions are utterly at odds with common sense. The result is that even a straightforward criminal case can turn into a runaway political incident. Even if prosecutors and the police solve the case, believers will remain believers, and non-believers will continue their ranting and raving. The victims will be denied justice and truth. Worse still, public confidence in democracy and social order on Taiwan will never be rebuilt.