Can Public Sentiment Lead to Legislation Against Obstruction of Justice?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
October 11, 2013
Summary: Language affects cognition. Cognition affects judgment. Wang Jin-pyng and Ker Chien-ming's exerting of undue influence on the criminal justice system has led to widespread controversy. Many have expressed concern over influence peddling. The laws against influence pedding are inadequate. Legislators are "expressly prohibited" from exerting undue influence on the criminal justice system. Yet no penalties are specified. No one is minding the store. The laws urgently need amending. Only then can we prevent politicians from continuing to abuse the system.
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Language affects cognition. Cognition affects judgment. Wang Jin-pyng and Ker Chien-ming's exerting of undue influence on the criminal justice system has led to widespread controversy. Many have expressed concern over influence peddling. The laws against influence pedding are inadequate. Legislators are "expressly prohibited" from exerting undue influence on the criminal justice system. Yet no penalties are specified. No one is minding the store. The laws urgently need amending. Only then can we prevent politicians from continuing to abuse the system.
Most people think "lobbying" is nothing more than "seeking assistance" or "requesting intercession." But lobbying more often than not, refers to official actions that influence policies or interests relevant to the lobbyist. If a criminal justice case is involved, lobbying may well involve "obstruction of justice" or "undue influence." In Western countries under the rule of law, different types of lobbying are subject to different laws. The definitions are crystal clear. But on Taiwan, vague definitions lead many people to conclude that they are "pretty much the same thing."
Controversy over wire tapping persists. Influence peddling on the other hand, has almost been totally forgotten. But overseas, people see thi8ngs very differently. Hong Kong writer Ma Jiahui said, "A Speaker of the Legislature lobbying a Minister of Justice, assuming it actually happened, constitutes "obstruction of justice," an extremely serious crime under Hong Kong's common law. Taiwan reporters stationed in the United States also noted that under U.S. law, the case involves at least two crimes. One is "undue influence." The other is "obstruction of justice," an even more serious crime punishable by imprisonment.
Ma Jiahui said he was puzzled because "influence peddling on Taiwan is actually not regulated by law." He was even more flabbergasted by the fact that "so far there have been no demands for legislation to regulate such lobbying." Hong Kongers who dig deeper will uncover one of the key problems in this case: guanxi vs. morality. Ma Ying-jeou's image has suffered from allegations of "heartlessness." These have prevailed over his insistence on upholding justice. He probably feels bewildered. His admiration for democracy on Taiwan has probably been severely tested.
Among ethnic Chinese societies, British influenced Hong Kong has the strongest rule of law tradition. It is said that "Hong Kong may lack democracy, but it has the rule of law." People on Taiwan are proud of their democracy. But the Ma Wang incident shows that by international standards "Taiwan may have democracy, but it lacks the rule of law." It shows that a champion of the rule of law turned president who is determined to uphold justice, cannot win. Wang Jin-pyng rationalized away his exerting of undue influence as an "expression of concern." A substantial proportion of the public has uncritically swallowed his argument. Elected representatives accused of exerting undue influence spin their conduct as "serving their constituents." They act as if it is the most natural thing in the world. The culture of "guanxi" is deep-rooted. But is it it really insoluble?
Western scholars evaluating the cultural influence of Confucianism on emerging Asian nations often note how nepotism undermines clean government and industrial modernization. People on Taiwan may tolerate "guanxi" in the private sector. But at the very least they should not tolerate it in the public sector. They must not tolerate the politically privileged engaging in the obstruction of justice. Otherwise, how can we call ourselves a democracy under the rule of law? How can NGOs monitoring the government according to the law call themselves "civil society?"
Real progress has been made toward the rule of law . But loopholes also abound. Keelung Mayor Chang Yung-tung exerted undue influence in a drunk driving case. He slammed his palm down on a desk and cussed people out in a police station. He was prosecuted for "obstructing the performance of official duties." An unsuccessful Control Yuan impeachment effort led to a public outcry. Over the years, how many traffic tickets have been torn up as a result of elected officials peddling influence on behalf of the public? More and more sweetheart deals. corruption, and dereliction of duty have been prosecuted. Take the recent CNPC general manager appointment case. Reporters noted how some parties persuaded legislators to "mediate." An enraged Minister of Economic Affairs immediately reassigned personnel. The public praised the minister for his iron rule, They agreed that his was the only way to put an end to the culture of "guanxi." Take the Lin Yi-shi corruption case. The law of course prohibits extorting "political contributions." But one aspect in particular most shocked the public, namely when Lin intervened in state-owned enterprises and declared that "I am in charge of the national treasury." Lin openly boasted that he was enaged in what the rest of the world calls "peddling influence." This is "lobbying on behalf of the politically privileged." Is there really no solution to this problem?
People here may consider "guanxi" as no big deal. But "obstructing the performance of official duties" and the "obstruction of justice" are different. Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng "expressing concern" for colleagues may not have involved any pecuniary considerations. But Article 17 of the "Legislative Practices Act" expressly prohibits "lobbying in ongoing criminal justice cases." Is this really nothing? Today's civil society is a public embarrassment. It is a case of "Long live influence peddling!"
How will these months of political turmoil be resolved? Influence peddling touched off a political struggle. Will the public pretend it was no big deal and sweep the entire affair under the rug? If so, what hope for the rule of law is there? Perhaps legislators cannot be counted on to uphold justice. But the public on Taiwan, and all who care about the rule of law, must make every effort to pass laws against the "obstruction of justice." The culture of "guanxi" must be elminated. This is a matter of right and wrong. This is a matter of the rule of law. Young people are about to become members of society. Will that society be dirty or clean? Can they expect justice? This is where the answer lies.
2013.10.11 03:41 am
一般人以為的關說，多泛指「請託」或「說情」（intercede）。但在涉及公務行為時，可能影響到政策執行或相關當事人利益的關說，通常叫做「遊說」（lobby）；若是牽涉司法案件，關說行為則可能衍生「妨礙司法公正」（obstruction of justice）或「不當運用影響力」（influence peddling）兩種罪行。在西方法治國家，不同性質的「關說」行為均受到不同法令的規範，定義也很明確；但在台灣，由於詞義的籠統，許多人卻以為「差不多」。