A Premier Not Guilty of Influence Peddling Apologizes to a Speaker Guilty of Influence Peddling
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
September 18, 2013
Summary: Premier Chiang Yi-hua did not commit the crime of influence peddling. Yet demagogues are demanding that he apologize to Speaker of the Legislative Yuan Wang Jin-pyng. This indicates that democracy on Taiwan is actually moving backwards. Right and wrong have been been turned upside down. We remind the public on of Taiwan. Keep a clear head. Do not fall into the politicians' traps. Do not parrot their scripted slogans. Only mature and independent citizens can keep the faith and retain their independence, Only they can prevent democracy from becoming a mirage.
Full text below:
The headline "influence peddling scandal" has replaced "September political struggles." That fact means the public has already forgotten what lies at the heart of the influence peddling scandal. Premier Chiang Yi-hua did not commit the crime of influence peddling. Yet demagogues are demanding that he apologize to Speaker of the Legislative Yuan Wang Jin-pyng. This indicates that democracy on Taiwan is actually moving backwards. Right and wrong have been been turned upside down.
The scene described took place yesterday in the Legislative Yuan. Many people probably no longer feel pain when witnessing such scenes. They feel only a surreal sense of the absurd. The opposition DPP engaged in obstructionism. It trotted out its tired old political tricks. The public no longer falls for them. But this time, political and judicial right and wrong were turned upside down with shocking ease. Guilt and innocence were reversed, overnight. Influence peddlers were able to adopt a posture of self-righteousness. This shows that the dark side of politics on Taiwan is once again on the rise.
DPP officials dressed themselves in black. They occupied the center of the legislative chambers. They shouted "Down with Chiang Yi-hua for violating the law and inciting chaos." They simply copied the trappings of the White Shirts and the Red Shirts. Inside however, their posturing was "content free." Green Camp legislators held up protest signs and posed for pictures in front of Premier Chiang's empty seat. Their antics underscored the fact that they merely "dropped in for a visit." Most appalling of all was a Green Camp list of demands for Premier Chiang. It included a demand that Chiang Yi-hua apologize to Wang Jin-pyng, disband the Special Investigation Unit, and suspend and investigate Prosecutor General Huang Shi-ming. A few short days was all that it took to drop the influence peddling scandal down the memory hole. Those investigating the influence peddling scandal became the whipping boys, the targets of mob passions. Politics on Taiwan is political roulette. The outcome is often more outrageous than outright cheating.
Admittedly, the political situation degenerated to this level in part because President Ma and his administration committed several tactical faux pas. They cannot escape blame for them. For example, they should not have chosen the day Wang Jin-pyng's daughter was getting married to take action. This created a political embarrassment abroad, casting doubt on our democracy and its rule of law. This hurt the feelings of many on Taiwan. The Ma administration should have given the parties a chance to defend themselves. They ordered the Party Disciplinary Committee to act. They gave many the impression they were engaged in political persecution. When party elders came forth to moderate the crisis, the Ma administration should not have allowed Young Turks to behave indiscriminately. That gave many the impression they lacked respect. They should have proceeded more carefully. They should not have imposed such a heavy punishment without first laying the groundwork. They provoked charges that their actions were "unconstitutional" and "disproportionate." Once the court gave the influence peddlers a free pass, they were left without a legal leg to stand on. All of the above have led to increasingly tangled and intractable problems. It makes it difficult for people to sympathize with them.
But let us return to the scandal itself. Let us examine the influence peddling case, from beginning to end. When all is said and done, the facts of the case are crystal clear. Certain technical blunders were made. Certain ways of the world were ignored. Certain peoples' feelings were hurt. But does that mean the original crime has magically vanished into thin air? Consider public perception. Different politicians evince different styles, some hard, some soft. Each have their merits. But from the standpoint of the nation, must public likes and dislikes for certain politicians trump objectivity and right and wrong in public affairs?
The Special Investigation Unit investigated Wang Jin-pyng and Ker Chien-ming for influence peddling. Suppose the Special Investigation Unit had chosen not to report their crimes? Suppose the President had chosen to ignore them? How would the public have reacted then? Would it not have seen the administration's actions as evidence of a white-wash and covering up? The influence peddling scandal has come to light. A political struggle has followed. Yet lo and behold, those who peddled influence have have become the big winners. They are now demanding that the premier bow and scrape and apologize to them. The Special Investigation Unit, which uncovered the crime has fared even worse. It is being accused of "illegal wiretapping" and faces demands that it be abolished, Huang Shi-ming faces suspension and investigation. Will the situation really degenerates to that level? If it does, then there will no longer be any shred of justice to be had on Taiwan. There will no longer be any justice for the justice system on Taiwan to pursue.
The only good news to come out of the current political struggle is that during the struggle, few claimed that "A mainlander president is persecuting a Taiwanese speaker!" This suggests that to some extent Taiwan has left behind the issue of provincial origins. More troubling is the public's preference for "feelings" over right and wrong. This preference led people to dismiss influence peddling as if it were nothing of importance. Is this merely a temporary phenomenon, or is it deeply rooted in democracy on Taiwan? The question is worth pondering. The influence peddling case was so clear cut, so cut and dried. Yet it was given a free pass as a result of peoples' "feelings." Under the circumstances, how long will it be before Taiwan adopts the rule of law?
The political situation remains treacherous. We call on the Ma administration to go by the book, to dot every i and cross every t. You must no longer act recklessly. Only 9% of the public still supports you. A single misstep and you will fall off a cliff. We call on ruling and opposition members of the Legislative Yuan. Do not play games with the nation's political institutions. Wang Jin-pyng has achieved a temporary lead in this game. That does not mean he is home free. More importantly, it does not mean that inaction on the part the legislature is legitimate, or that the legislature may abuse its authority. Quite the contrary. A legislature drunk with power can easily step on a landmine. The pendulum will eventually swing the other way. People will realize that the Legislative Yuan was the real source of the problem to begin with.
We remind the public on of Taiwan. Keep a clear head. Do not fall into the politicians' traps. Do not parrot their scripted slogans. Only mature and independent citizens can keep the faith and retain their independence, Only they can prevent democracy from becoming a mirage.
2013.09.18 02:08 am