United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 7, 2016
Executive Summary: Yesterday Taichung Prison officials announced that that Chen Shui-bian's “attendance” at a June 4 fundraising dinner did not violate the terms of his release. In other words, Chen will probably continue to enjoy his "medical parole". This comes as no surprise, given the “box seat” provided him earlier by the Ministry of Justice. Add to this Tsai spokesman Li Chun-yi's dinner speech thanking Chen for “taking into consideration the big picture”. The picture should be crystal clear.
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Yesterday Taichung Prison officials announced that that Chen Shui-bian's “attendance” at a June 4 fundraising dinner did not violate the terms of his release. In other words, Chen will probably continue to enjoy his "medical parole". This comes as no surprise, given the “box seat” provided him earlier by the Ministry of Justice. Add to this Tsai spokesman Li Chun-yi's dinner speech thanking Chen for “taking into consideration the big picture”. The picture should be crystal clear.
The June 4 fundraising dinner was packed. Over 2000 Chen fans attended. Everyone who was anyone in the green camp was present. Legislative Yuan President Su Chia-chuan, Chen Chu, Lai Ching-teh and other mayors and county chiefs, as well as green camp talking heads, all showed up. Li Chun-yi apologized to Chen on behalf of Tsai Ing-wen, saying the new government was in an awkward position, therefore could not attend. He expressed gratitude, saying "As long as Chen needs our help, we are here for him". Taiwan independence elder Koo Kuan-min boasted that "The world is now ours". Suppose Chen had taken part in the dinner proceedings? Would anyone have dared to arrest and detain him?
At first Taichung Prison officials warned Chen that if he traveled north to Taipei, his medical parole would be revoked. Later they allowed him to return to his Minsheng East Road home. Eventually they allowed him to attend the fundraising dinner. These three changes revealed the degree to which the rule of law was set back as Chen Shui-bian tested the will of prison officials. It showed that Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san's incantation, "We respect the decisions made by Taichung Prison officials", was mere lip service. In fact, under pressure from Taiwan independence zealots and Ko Chien-min, even the Ministry of Justice was force to bow before politics. Even Tsai Ing-wen was forced to send a representative to express her gratitude. How could lowly Taichung Prison officials possibly withstand this sort of pressure?
When Chen Shui-bian sat in his “box seat” and his fan club regaled him with tributes, he shattered the first window pane in the new government's “rule of law” showcase. When Tsai Ing-wen expressed gratitude towards Chen Shui-bian for “considering the big picture”, she shattered a second window pane. And this was merely the beginning. Chen lost power as a consequence of political corruption, and was imprisoned for his crime. The DPP has never apologized to the people of Taiwan for this. Now that it has returned to power, the DPP is kowtowing before Chen and thanking him. What must the public be feeling as it gazes upon such a spectacle?
The most flagrant example of Taiwan independence arrogance was Koo Kuan-min's boast that "The world is now ours", the premise being that once one is in power, one can do as one pleases, after all, who will stop me? Koo Kuan-min sees himself as a conquering hero. He has revealed his feudalistic mentality. If someone of his ilk, who makes no distinction between public and private, can threaten or even hijack the new government, the harm inflicted upon Taiwan will be endless. Even more nauseating were the green camp talking heads who blasted Chiu Tai-san for being “ungrateful for Chen Shui-bian's promotion." They care only about power. They care nothing about the rule of law or moral standards. Politically their appeal is limited to the home market. How can they possibly advance Taiwan's democracy?
Viewed positively, Tsai Ing-wen's expression of gratitude to Chen Shui-bian involved practical considerations. Chen refrained from making trouble during the election process. He did not hinder her, thereby enabling her to win handily. He was willing to abide by the "three noes". He did not directly participate the dinner ceremonies. He did not openly challenge the law. He took into consideration the new government's awkward position. Viewed negatively however, the president was handed a new mandate. Yet she is unable to boldly follow the law. She must express humble gratitude toward her corrupt predecessor. She must offer quid pro quos to Taiwan independence extremists before she can follow the law. She must send a representative to a fundraising dinner to appease Chen fans. A government such as this has already undermined its image, compromised its principles, and revealed its cowardice.
In short, Tsai Ing-wen failed to use her mandate to draw a bright line between herself and Taiwan independence extremists. She succumbed instead to their pressure, and publicly surrendered her authority. This was her first wrong move. Therefore when Taiwan independence extremists demand a presidential pardon for Chen Shui-bian, Tsai Ing-wen will lose the support of moderate voters. This will be the next major challenge to her administration.
In fact, "The world is now ours" sounds more like something a Mafia capo would say. Tsai Ing-wen must guard against this tendency to inflate the importance of the new government and the ruling DPP. She must not allow the government or political parties to walk in the shadow of organized crime. DPP legislators plan to pass an "Amnesty Law" tailor made for Chen Shui-bian. Once they succeed, the new government's highly touted transitional justice and judicial reform will sputter to a halt. In any case, Tsai Ing-wen must not deal with Chen Shui-bian the way that Lin Chuan dealt with Sunflower Student Movement rioters, by withdrawing the charges against them. She must not undermine the credibility of the justice system by pandering to the demands of a few. The result is certain to be self-inflicted injury.