Pardon Chen! Taiwan Independence Hardliners' First Warning to Tsai Ing-wen
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 11, 2016
Executive Summary: The DPP convened a party plenary session over the weekend, and passed a resolution to "govern humbly, reform steadily”. On the surface at least, the entire party welcomes the advent of the new regime. The atmosphere is seemingly one of unity and jubilation. But in fact, as the government reveals how it intends to allocate benefits, factional infighting has broken out. Over the past two days, Taiwan independence hardliners and the Kaohsiung City Government and City Council have demanded a pardon for Chen Shui-bian. In fact, they have already threatened Tsai Ing-wen.
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The DPP convened a party plenary session over the weekend, and passed a resolution to "govern humbly, reform steadily”. On the surface at least, the entire party welcomes the advent of the new regime. The atmosphere is seemingly one of unity and jubilation. But in fact, as the government reveals how it intends to allocate benefits, factional infighting has broken out. Over the past two days, Taiwan independence hardliners and the Kaohsiung City Government and City Council have demanded a pardon for Chen Shui-bian. In fact, they have already threatened Tsai Ing-wen.
The Kaohsiung City Council's demand that Chen Shui-bain be pardoned was originally intended to embarrass President Ma. But everyone knows the score. Timing, legitimacy, and politics prevent Ma Ying-jeou from ever making a decision so contrary to justice and public opinion just before leaving office. Therefore this demand from a local DPP city council is actually directed at Tsai Ing-wen. The hope is that when she becomes president, she will free Chen Shui-bian, even help him “receive justice”, and “prove his innocence”. The goal is to enable the green camp to vent eight years of accumulated spleen.
The problem is however, that Tsai Ing-wen's new government has just traveled its first mile. If the very first thing it does is “vindicate” the notoriously corrupt Chen Shui-bian, if it exempts him from further prosecution on the grounds of illness, or even overturns his convictions, then how can Tsai Ing-wen possibly persuade the public she is “Shining a light on Taiwan"? If she can so readily override national laws, betray the justice system for the sake of a corrupt former president, how can she demonstrate her commitment to “judicial reform"?
We cannot believe Tsai Ing-wen's first step will be a presidential pardon for Chen Shui-bian. At least, that is not her preference. Doing so would make her new administration stumble. It would immediately lead to the loss the trust by a majority of the public, and make it difficult for her to govern. The “Pardon Chen” issue, officially promoted by the Tainan and Kaohsiung city councils, is gathering momentum. Many DPP legislators and elders have expressed support. Under these conditions, Tsai Ing-wen must either respond or simply dodge the issue altogether.
At at deeper level, demands that Chen Shui-ban be pardoned can be seen as deep green Taiwan independence hardliners' issuing Tsai Ing-wen her first ultimatum. During the election, Taiwan independence hardliners sought ruling party change. As a result they maintained an extraordinary silence when Tsai Ing-wen openly advocated "maintaining the status quo". When questioned about cross-Strait policy, they declined to comment. Tsai Ing-wen will soon be in power. She has reiterated her intention to promote cross-Strait relations on the basis of the "ROC constitutional framework". Even the DPP version of the Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Regulations abandoned the "two states theory". It will be difficult to hold back Taiwan independence hardliners without making concessions to them.
Taiwan independence hardliners bit their tongues becauseed they wanted to ensure the Democratic Progressive Party's return to power. Now that the green camp is back in power, they naturally expect to be rewarded. They waited and waited. But so far new government "goodies" have been conferred only upon the "Yin Faction”. Other factions have benefited little. If Taiwan independence hardliners' patience is not rewarded, the “Pardon Chen” issue will explode.
The “Pardon Chen” movement was launched by Taiwan independence hardliners in the south, where it quickly spread. The issue is specific, familiar, and easy to demagogue. First, pretend it is directed at Ma Ying-jeou. This will enable one to pretend it is not directed at Tsai Ing-wen. Next, have local green camp elected representatives and government leaders demagogue the issue. One can then assemble a mighty army, and force Tsai Ing-wen to pay attention. The most interesting case is Ko Wen-je, whose popularity is at a low ebb. Yesterday, by an most amazing coincidence, Ko journeyed south to look in on Chen, and played the “Pardon Chen” issue for all it was worth. Dr. Ko examined Chen, and concluded Chen was "wasted”. But as Ko Wen-je knows full well, waste has its uses.
Ko Wen-je has jumped out at this moment in response to Taiwan independence hardliners' demand that Chen be pardoned. Of course he has political calculations. As long as he puts on a better show than Tsai Ing-wen, as long as he is more attentive, more aggressive, he will find it easier to win the hearts of Taiwan independence hardliners. He will find it easier to challenge Tsai Ing-wen. Ko Wen-je's political calculations are of secondary importance. What is truly worrisome is what Tsai Ing-wen and her administration have in mind for the nation's future. She will continue to be besieged by Taiwan independence hardliners and their allies. A fierce tug of war ensue over pragmatic concerns in cross-Strait policy, and touch upon sensitive constitutional issues. Will Tsai Ing-wen have the latitude and ability to deal with them?
Pardoning Chen Shui-bian is the Taiwan independence hardliners' first warning shot. Ma Ying-jeou may now laugh it off. But Tsai Ing-wen must give it serious consideration. This makes the provisional plenary session's resolution regarding "reform steadily" particularly meaningful.
2016-04-11 01:56 聯合報 聯合報社論