United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 2, 2016
Executive Summary: Is the DPP regime genuinely interested in minimizing wasted resources, minimizing conflict, reinforcing the rule of law, and eliminating KMT party assets? If it is, then the operation of the Improper Party Assets Cleanup Committee must be more flexible and tolerant. The KMT has committed to impartial third party inventory. Once it has donated all its assets, this third party can assume this responsibility as well. Once the KMT has slimmed down, it should re-examine its retirement system for party workers. That is the proper and practical approach to the party assets controversy.
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The DPP and New Power Party (NPP) have passed the "Articles for the Handling of Assets Improperly Obtained by Political Parties and Affiliated Organizations", or “Improper Party Assets Cleanup Ordinance", for short. Since then, the ruling DPP immediately began sharpening its knives. It intends to set up a "Improper Party Assets Cleanup Committee" to promote so-called “transitional justice”. Psychologically, the KMT may be prepared to lose all its party assets. But it questions the legitimacy and constitutionality of the regulations. Once the cleanup of party assets begins, administrative remedies will be required. The eventual result may be battles over constitutional interpretation.
Once the cleanup of party assets begins in earnest, legal battles are sure to ensue. A protracted war involving cut-throat battles will follow. Many scholars consider the Improper Party Assets Cleanup Ordinance unconstitutional. For example, the term "improper" is poorly defined, and involves the presumption of guilt. The Improper Party Assets Cleanup Committee would be established under the Executive Yuan. This violates the separation of powers. It also constitutes ex post facto law. The next constitutional battle cannot be dismissed with a few words. Nor can any party be assured of victory.
As for administrative relief, it is possible to demand a constitutional interpretation rather than drag matters out. Even if the DPP regime recovers KMT party assets, the battle could drag on, squander enormous resources and exact exorbitant social costs. The DPP regime could lose the constitutional battle. Its "transitional justice", its “fair competition”, and its “cleanup of improper party assets” could be reduced to a futile and unconstitutional power struggle. Ko Chien-min is concerned that if KMT party assets cannot be recovered, the issue could become the DPP's own Taipei Dome fiasco.
To be fair, KMT party assets have often been a "political ATM" for rival parties. precisely because huge party assets have resulted in unfair competition among political parties. The mere possession of assets makes one look guilty. When Lee Teng-hui was KMT Chairman, he used KMT party assets to interfere with politics. He even manipulated the stock market and consortia, and established a huge “black gold” network that left people in disgust. The general public supports "zero party assets". Many KMT members agree. They feel this burden must be addressed then lifted.
But before debating the justice of any cleanup of improper party assets, one must first acknowledge that KMT party assets are a "shared legacy". The chronology and scope of which is far more complex than most people imagine. For example, the Ministry of Justice Bureau of Investigation, the Ministry of Defense Bureau of Military Intelligence, were once KMT "affiliated organizations". The National History Museum's greatest treasures, the "Dasi Files", were once KMT party assets. Lee Teng-hui's Taiwan Research Institute was also established with funds under the control of the KMT. Even the DPP was a recipient of Lee Teng-hui's generosity, and was “wet nursed” with KMT party assets. All these leave "transitional justice" a tangled web.
Can the Improper Party Assets Cleanup Ordinance cleanup improper party assets, achieve transitional justice, and ensure fair competition among political parties? Not if the regulatory framework is defective, in which case any cleanup effort may be counterproductive. Even if the DPP regime successfully liquidates the KMT's party assets, the final casualty could be the rule of law. The final result could be never ending partisan political battles, and the unlimited expansion of executive power.
In fact, the KMT has already committed to "zero party assets". After deducting liabilities, personnel costs, retirement benefits, and other costs, the remaining amount will be donated to the public. This commitment, once implemented, will achieve the goal of "zero party assets". The KMT will no longer enjoy an unfair advantage due to its party assets. Transitional justice will be largely realized. The Improper Party Assets Cleanup Ordinance may frustrate this goal. The DPP approach may take longer. The outcome may be less certain. The DPP approach violates the rule of law in its attempt to recover party assets. In truth, the DPP approach is not really an attempt to achieve transitional justice. It is merely a pretext to humiliate and destroy the KMT. In the eyes of the DPP, this is the real purpose behind the recovery of KMT party assets.
Is the DPP regime genuinely interested in minimizing wasted resources, minimizing conflict, reinforcing the rule of law, and eliminating KMT party assets? If it is, then the operation of the Improper Party Assets Cleanup Committee must be more flexible and tolerant. The KMT has committed to impartial third party inventory. Once it has donated all its assets, this third party can assume this responsibility as well. Once the KMT has slimmed down, it should re-examine its retirement system for party workers. That is the proper and practical approach to the party assets controversy.