Hau Lung-bin's Goodwill Gesture: Ruling and Opposition Party Harmony?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 23, 2012
Summary: Hau Lung-bin may have advanced the same arguments as Chen Shui-bian supporters. But Hau Lung-bin was more sincere. He honestly believed the ruling and opposition parties should seek reconciliation. Hau was not casting about for a pretext to support Ah-Bian. But just because one's motives are pure, that does not mean one's logic is sound. The consequences of cavalierly granting medical parole to Ah-Bian could easily lead to even greater ruling and opposition party conflict. This would run counter to Hau Lung-bin's intent.
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Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin yesterday attended the opening ceremony for "Freedom Lane." He suggested that the government deal with the issue of medical parole for former President Chen. He said doing so might heal social divisions. Hau Lung-bin's suggestion was unexpected. Sure enough, it has provoked questions about his motivation. The Green Camp expressed approval. But the Blue Camp was reserved. Some suggested that Hau Lung-bin was laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign.
The Blue and Green camps have long been at loggerheads. Expressions of support for Chen Shui-bian's medical parole are unlikely to meet with Blue Camp approval. They are unlikely to receive support even from moderates. Hau Lung-bin is not that naive. If he is seeking higher office, he knows that offending Pan Blue voters is not a smart strategy.
Therefore we should not question Hau Lung-bin's motivation. We should instead ask ourselves whether Mayor Hao's suggestion is reasonable. The suggestion that Chen Shui-bian should be granted medical parole, or even a presidential pardon, was originally confined to Green Camp supporters. Now a Blue Camp heavyweight has echoed their calls. Chen Shui-bian supporters were on the margins. This gave them a tremendous boost. Do Hao's arguments for medical parole or a presidential pardon have any merit? Hau Lung-bin's arguments are similar to those advanced by Ah-Bian supporters. The arguments advanced by Ah-Bian supporters are dubious. Just because Hau Lung-bin is currently advancing the same arguments does not make the arguments any the less dubious. Their arguments for granting Chen Shui-bian medical parole or a presidential pardon have not suddenly been imbued with legitimacy.
Consider what Hau Lung-bin said and wrote. Hau made three points. One. He praised Cheng Nan-jung, who immolated himself in the cause of freedom of speech. Cheng's act indirectly contributed to the amending of "Article One Hundred of the Criminal Code." Democracy on Taiwan entered a new phase. That is why the Taipei City Government established a "Freedom Lane." It was to commemorate Cheng Nan-jung. Two. Over the past few years political conflicts have persisted. Society on Taiwan has remained mired in internecine warfare. The impact of the global recession has been menacing and severe. Hau called on politicians to cease their infighting and concentrate on improving the economy.
Three. Hau Lung-bin noted the lack of trust between the ruling and opposition parties. Calls to cease infighting have never gone beyond lip service. He suggested that Chen Shui-bian's medical condition and strong cries from his supporters for medical parole, made dealing with former President Chen's medical parole urgent. He also suggested that they might help heal society's wounds.
Hau Lung-bin's concerns about ruling vs. opposition party infighting are justified. But he suggested that medical parole for Chen Shui-bian was a remedy. Leave aside whether his reasoning is sound. Ask yourself instead whether it is fair or just. It could lead to ruling and opposition party conflict. After all, the ruling and opposition parties hold diametrically opposed notions of justice. Can a compromise be reached between the two? That is a giant question mark.
The Green Camp has changed its strategy. It went from demanding a presidential pardon for Ah-Bian, to demanding medical parole. The main reason was that according to the Constitution of the Republic of China, a pardon may be granted only after a verdict has been reached. Only then can the president exercise his power of pardon. Chen Shui-bian has yet to be tried in court for several criminal offenses. Ah-Bian must first enter a guilty plea. That would speed up the trial process. That is the first hurdle. The second hurdle is that so far Chen Shui-bian has pleaded not guilty. The claims to be the victim of political and judicial persecution. He has refused to apologize for his corruption. The President has no basis on which to grant a pardon. Ah-Bian has refused to admit wrongdoing. If he is pardoned, that would imply he was the victim of judicial persecution.
Hao Lung-ping equates Cheng Nan-jung's act of self-immolation with the Chen corruption case. That is absurd. Cheng Nan-jung fiercely defended freedom of speech. He was a victim of a bad law. Chen Shui-bian is behind bars because he engaged in rampant corruption. His imprisonment has nothing to do with politics. The two issues are totally unrelated. They simply cannot be compared.
It is premature to talk of pardoning Chen Shui-bian. But recently Chen Shui-bian's family members and the Green Camp have constantly floated rumors about Chen Shui-bian's physical and mental condition. This should not be overlooked. Hao Lung-bin suggests that the relevant agencies immediately organize a team of medical experts to assess Chen Shui-bian's health. This is indeed necessary. But those demanding medical parole for Ah-Bian must abide by any conclusions reached by the physicians who conduct the examination. Ah-Bian must not be granted medical parole for political reasons. That would amount to granting him a presidential pardon under the guise of medical parole. Given the current political climate and Ah-Bian's behavior, that would hardly be appropriate.
Chen Shui-bian has yet to admit guilt. The trial process has yet to be concluded. The government may grant a former head of state certain courtesies while he serves his sentence. The Taipei Detention Center upgraded Chen Shui-bian's accomodations. That is indeed necessary.
Hau Lung-bin may have advanced the same arguments as Chen Shui-bian supporters. But Hau Lung-bin was more sincere. He honestly believed the ruling and opposition parties should seek reconciliation. Hau was not casting about for a pretext to support Ah-Bian. But just because one's motives are pure, that does not mean one's logic is sound. The consequences of cavalierly granting medical parole to Ah-Bian could easily lead to even greater ruling and opposition party conflict. This would run counter to Hau Lung-bin's intent.