Pardon for Chen Shui-bian: Only with Admission of Guilt and Expression of Remorse
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 9 2012
Summary: There has been much discussion about how Chen Shui-bian should serve out his prison term. One possible solution is for the president to grant Chen a pardon after all his cases have been adjudicated. But Chen Shui-bian must first admit guilt, express remorse, and offer the public a good faith apology.
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There has been much discussion about how Chen Shui-bian should serve out his prison term. One possible solution is for the president to grant Chen a pardon after all his cases have been adjudicated. But Chen Shui-bian must first admit guilt, express remorse, and offer the public a good faith apology.
Granting pardons is a presidential prerogative. But the president may not behave like a "Great Dictator" or "His Imperial Highness." The President may grant a pardon. But he must consider the principle of justice. He must heed the feelings of the nation. He may not do whatever he pleases.
Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan was originally sentenced to death for corruption. His sentenced was commuted to life imprisonment. Roh Tae-woo was originally sentenced to 22 years and six months for corruption. His sentence was commuted to 17 years. Chun and Roh both admitted guilt, apologized, and expressed remorse to their political parties and to the Korean people. Only then did President Kim Dae-jung grant them pardons. Chun and Roh expressed their gratitude to the Korean people. Chun Doo Hwan retreated to a monastery. Question: If Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo refused to admit guilt, express remorse, and offer apologies, would Kim Dae-jung have granted them pardons? Would the Korean people have agreed to granting them pardons?
"I refuse to admit guilt. But I demand a pardon." This has been the mistaken strategy adopted by Chen and his supporters. This epitomizes the attitude, "Better that I should be indebted to the world, than the world should be indebted to me." Ironically by clinging to this position, Chen Shui-bian has painted himself into a corner. Clinging to this position has led to a stalemate which has made a pardon impossible. To expect President Ma to pardon Chen Shui-bian when Chen refuses to admit guilt, express remorse, and offer an apology, is expecting too much. A majority of the public would ever consent.
Character determines destiny. Chen Shui-bian obstinately refuses to admit guilt and express remorse. This has led to an impasse that makes a pardon impossible. The more Chen Shui-bian refuses to admit guilt and offer an apology, the longer the case drags on, and the harder it is for him to reverse himself. Chen Shui-bian has already decided never to reverse himself, never to admit guilt or offer an apology. How can anyone offer him a pardon? This is a vicious circle that persists even now.
Chen Shui-bian and his supporters have discovered that refusal to admit guilt while demanding a pardon is self-contradictory. As a result they are now demanding medical parole. Others, such as Buddhist Master Hsing Yun, have humanitarian concerns. Hhe has proposed the "Chang Hsueh-lang model" of house arrest. These calls already violate existing legal provisions.
Two views have emerged. One side argues that Chen Shui-bian "after all, served as president for eight years." Therefore he should receive special treatment. Two. Another side argues that the president commiting a crime is more serious than an ordinary person committing a crime. In fact, since Chen Shui-bian entered prison, the public and judicial authorities have been divided between these two views. Most people think the Chen Shui-bian case is a chance to improve conditions for all inmates. If conditions for Chen Shui-bian are improved, then conditions for all inmates should be improved. If Chen Shui-bian is allowed to have hot baths, then other inmates should also be allowed to have hot baths. If Chen Shui-bian is allowed to appear in court without handcuffs, then other inmates should also be allowed to appear in court without handcuffs. These two views can be implemented simultaneously. In a democratic society under the rule of law, this is the right way to deal with such problems.
Some argue that Chen Shui-bian "after all, served as president for eight years." In fact, the prison system, as one might imagine, has bent over backwards to accomodate this "super inmate." Chen Shui-bian has been provided with every nicety the law allows. Demands that he be provided with reasonable and humanitarian accommodations have ensured that Chen Shui-bian, as "former president," is treated better than other inmates. His cell is 1.3 Pings in size. Approximately 4.3 SM. This is standard. But whether he wishes to live alone, and whether he wishes to work in the prison workshop, have all been left up to Chen Shui-bian himself. Chen Shui-bian's medical problems have been attended to four times. His medical care was overseen by Doctor Ko Wen-Je of National Taiwan University Hospital. Ko confirmed that Chen had blood clots, not tumors, within his prostate. Should Chen be allowed medical parole? That is specified by law. Both "former presidents" and "ordinary people" should receive the same treatment, under the same set of rules. One may not operate outside the law.
We have always believed that the crux of the matter in the Chen corruption case has been the crime rather than the punishment. Chen Shui-bian owes the nation and society so much, and not just for his corruption, He owes them even more for his refusal to admit guilt, express remorse, and offer an apology. The public feels Chen Shui-bian admitting guilt, expressing remorse, and offering an apology is more important than increasing his punishment. The public feels that if he does not admit guilt, express remorse, and offer an apology, then it has no reason to pardon him.
A presidential pardon, medical parole, and improved prison conditions all pertain to the rule of law. But they also pertain to peoples differing concepts of justice. But the decision to admit guilt, express remorse, and offer an apology is Chen Shui-bian's alone. Why doesn't Chen Shui-bian admit guilt and express remorse to the nation and society, in order to win public forgiveness? Why doesn't Chen Shui-bian demonstrate his sincerity though his own efforts, and fight for a pardon? Why has he refused to admit guilt and express remorse for his attempts destroy the nation's laws for his own sake?
The Chen corruption case is the most significant case of its kind in the history of the Republic of China. A president who violated the law has been forced to suffer punishment alongside ordinary people. Chen Shui-bian made all sorts of demands on the nation's laws. But he should also reflect on his own responsibility and apologize to society. Once the cases have been adjudicated, a pardon is an option. After all, the person who created the problem should solve the problem.
Otherwise, Ma Ying-jeou or any other president, cannot grant a pardon to a criminal who refuses to admit guilt and express remorse.