The Jiang Yi-hua Summons carries Grave Implications
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 1, 2014
Summary: When the police expelled Sunflower Student Movement members who forcibly
occupied the Executive Yuan offices, 23 people were injured. Five
people, including Premier Jiang Yi-hua and National Police
Administration Chief Wang Cho-chun have been summoned by the Taipei
District Court, on suspicion of attempted murder. Premier Jiang and the
others agreed to appear in court. The hearing lasted nearly eight and a
half hours. The judge may summon Premier Jiang again. But if the charges
fail to stick, the case will be dismissed.
Full Text Below:
When the police expelled Sunflower Student Movement members who forcibly occupied the Executive Yuan offices, 23 people were injured. Five people, including Premier Jiang Yi-hua and National Police Administration Chief Wang Cho-chun have been summoned by the Taipei District Court, on suspicion of attempted murder. Premier Jiang and the others agreed to appear in court. The hearing lasted nearly eight and a half hours. The judge may summon Premier Jiang again. But if the charges fail to stick, the case will be dismissed.
This was the first time a premier has ever been summoned to appear before the court as a defendant in a criminal case. To prevent students and other protestors from precipitating a conflict, the Zhong Zheng District Police Precinct Number 1 deployed over 200 officers to the scene. Approximately 100 students and other protestors said they intended to file suits against Premier Jiang. Fortunately, no violence ensued.
On March 24, protestors were expelled from the Executive Yuan. Huang Ming-chong, an associate research fellow at the Academia Sinica, and 23 other people were injured. Sunflower Student Movement lawyers went into action. A total of six criminal suits were filed. Different judges with the Taipei Court heard the cases. One of the cases named President Ma Ying-jeou as defendant. But the constitution stipulates that unless a sitting president is guilty of fomenting internal or external strife, he will remain immune from criminal prosecution as long as he is in office. As a result, Ma received a temporary waiver. But he may face litigation upon leaving office.
This case established many historical firsts, It highlighted the judge's boldness in the pursuit of social justice, and Premier Jiang's respect for justice. But it also left behind six serious constitutional, judicial, and political questions. It means no end of trouble. If the public is not vigilant, and watches from the sidelines while judicial and political manipulation establishes a precedent, political and judicial chaos will eventually spread and sink the nation.
The first question we must ask is whether a premier can be charged with a crime for carrying out his administrative duties. This is the first time a premier has been prosecuted in a criminal case for the performance of his official duties. A single incident resulted in six charges. The underlying motive is obvious. It is clearly an attempt to amplify the Sunflower Student Movement's impact on society. It is an attempt to make the executive branch and police afraid to enforce the law during future mass protests. It is an attempt to paralyze the government.
The latter is especially true. Future court cases will need to convene three, five, even seven times before they can be closed. The Sunflower Student Movement has ensured that dozens of court cases will be convened. The premier will become a permant resident in the courtroom. The aim of paralyzing the government will be achieved. Provided with such a template, any and all suits against civil servants will automatically name the premier of other government heads as defendants, forcing them to appear before the Legislative Yuan or judges. Government paralysis is just around the corner. Presiding judges will convene hearings and summon government heads even before the case goes ahead. Can any government operate under such conditions? Can Taiwan survive?
Second, according to this logic, the defendants and the administration are one and the same. Chief Executives must determine whether civil servants have violated the law by watching news reports. They must immediately order them to cease and desist. If they fail to do so, they will be considered accomplices and found guilty. The is the "chief culprit" logic of the Kaohsiung Formosa Incident. It held the chief executive criminally liable for everyone's conduct, and it is equally absurd. If prosecutors define crime this way, the consequenses will be unimaginable. The plaintiffs in these suits applied the same logic as the White Terror. Don't the plaintiffs realize prosecutors could well follow this precedent?
Third, when a large number of people occupy a government office, dispersing them may lead to injuries. If the police cannot expel them, then thousands of people can occupy the Legislative Yuan. the Executive Yuan, and even the courtrooms. As long as they sit and refuse to leave, they cannot be expelled. Chaos will be just around the corner. Labour can then occupy corporate headquarters, students can occupied campus buildings, debtors can occupied creditor's homes, and police cannot evict them. How can society possibly function?
Four, the plaintiffs argue that if the assembly is peaceful, they cannot be evicted, even if the occupation is illegal. But how can scaling a wall and occupying a government office constitute peaceful assembly? The protestors forced their way into government offices and occupied them. They say this conduct was peaceful and therefore they cannot be evicted. Can they break into homes and occupy them? Can they break into schools and occupy them? Can a row of people sitting hand in hard and resisting the police be termed peaceful? Police cannot of intentionally hit people. But they must never be afraid of dispersing people because someone may get hurt. To label that state violence is the reasoning of anarchists. Any nation with a government is going to have violence. The only question is whether that violence was legitimate, whether the timing was appropriate, and whether it complied with the principle of proportionality. The issue is not whether the police should enforce the law.
Five, The facts of the case are the same for both the plaintiff and the defendant. Not trying the cases together allows the plaintiff to play with the selection of judges and waste the resources of the legal system. The decision to hold separate trials must be questioned.
Six, In the past, former President Lee Teng-hui, President Ma Ying-jeou, and five premiers, were often named as defendants in lawsuits. But the court seldom if ever summoned them, because the cases obviously had nothing to do with them. According to the Criminal Procedure Law, plaintiffs may demand prosecution or file their own lawsuits. To avoid frivolous lawsuits, litigation laws stipulate that "unless absolutely necessary, judges may not summon the defendant in advance." Yet the very first thing the judges in this case did was to issue summons to the premier and chief of police. Suppose members of the public unhappy with government policy willfully file lawsuits against heads of state and government leaders? Suppose judges go along with them by summoning the defendants? Such lawsuits would become a means of unlawful prosecution.
Bloodshed is of course regrettable. But no country can allow its administrative centers to be occupied by mobs. Jiang Yi-hua is the premier. He was not wrong to order police to evict illegal occupiers from government buildings. If blood was shed, that is a police enforcement matter. If Jiang Yi-hua becomes a defendant in an attempted murder case, the trial will be a farce.