China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 5, 2016
Executive Summary: President Tsai Ying-wen will be facing more and more such challenges to her authority from within her own party. She will have to remember what she told her comrades in her letter to party members: "In politics, there is no one else. The responsibility is yours”. But responsibility means being able to resist pressure from the green media and party factions as well.
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The New York branch of Mega Financial Services has been fined 180 million USD by the New York State Department of Financial Services. Premier Lin Chuan could no longer resist the political pressure. He fired six officials, including Ting Kung-wha, former Financial Management Committee Chairpersons Chen Yu-chang, Tseng Min-chong, Wang Li-ling, former Finance Minister Chang Sheng-he, and current Minister of Finance Hsu Yu-che. They have been turned over to the Control Yuan for prosecution. In the past TV pundits would spread rumors to incite public outrage. Today they are “court physicians” in the Imperial Palace. They impeached these officials and forced them to step down. The Mega Financial Services incident will leave an indelible imprint on Taiwan's political history.
The executive, the judiciary, elected representatives, and the general public all lack the “primordial force” required to uncover the truth about Mega Financial Services. They assumed they would uncover evidence of high-level KMT money laundering, but came up blank. Out of 174 Mega Financial Services remittances in 76 accounts, not a single remittance was from Taiwan. Central Bank President Perng Fai-nan confirmed that "no money-laundering took place", and that the case concerned only "compliance issues". TV pundits' allegations of "high-level KMT money-laundering" were clearly fictitious. Nevertheless the FSC vice chairman and six outgoing and incumbent department heads are under investigation. Perng Fai-nan is also under attack by TV pundits. In a rare statement, he said that “once his term is up, he will not seek re-appointment”.
President Tsai Ying-wen has been taken hostage by TV pundits. Mob sentiment rules the nation. Is this reasonable? Financial losses suffered by other nations may prove instructive. Following the financial tsunami in 2007, the US increased financial oversight and frequently imposed huge fines on financial institutions to ensure financial discipline and meet the needs of counter-terrorism. JP Morgan Chase Bank was fined 13 billion USD. Deutsche Bank was recently fined 14 billion USD. By contrast, Mega Financial Services was fined 180 million USD. Many other banks have been fined more than 1 billion USD. But not one of these nations' governments required the heads of financial oversight agencies to step down. Still less did they prosecute six former or current heads of such agencies. The DPP has clearly handled the case in a grossly unbalanced and disproportionate manner.
“Let the punishment fit the crime”. Punishment that panders to mob sentiment and is disproportionate to any alleged crimes, has grave consequences for the nation and endangers the Tsai government. It will have at least three repercussions. First, it has encouraged green media meddling in the government. When the Mega Financial Services case first erupted, TV talk shows and green camp TV pundits alleged that the funds were laundered Kuomintang party assets. They went online and named Chou Mei-ching, King Pu-chong, and Ma Ying-jeou. They “fired their arrows, then drew targets”. They claimed that anyone and everyone connected with the FSC was guilty. Ting Ker-hua insisted that "charges require evidence”. He eventually laid out the results of his investigation. The rumor-mongers were forced to eat crow. Enraged, they vented their spleen on Ting Ker-hua and forced him to step down. These talking heads are a blight upon the nation. That much everyone agrees upon. Tsai Ing-wen as president has a responsibility to resist political pressure and not dance to the tune of the chattering class. Forcing Ting Ker-hua to step down has rewarded these pundits. It has encouraged them to persist in their political rumor mongering.
Secondly, it has encouraged DPP gang warfare. Many Democratic Progressive Party insiders have loosed arrows at Mega Financial Services. Long-term observation of these TV pundits reveals their factional affiliations. They service the needs of the media. They also collude with certain factions. They are in fact faction members. DPP factional rivalry has long been gang warfare over resources and positions. In the past, when it was in the opposition, the object of its Kulturkampf was the KMT. Now that the DPP is in power, and the nation's resources are in their hands, the gang warfare has turned inward. Rumor mongering and political attacks have their roots in behind the scenes power struggles. Ting Ker-hua has been toppled. Yet another political post is up for grabs. Ting Ker-hua has just resigned. Yet rumors about the FSC are already flying. The fight for official positions has already begun.
Ting Ker-hua, Chairman of the FSC, hoped his professionalism could reform Taiwan's financial environment. Now the DPP Kulturkampf has forced him to step down. This is a serious blow to Tsai Ing-wen and Lin Chuan's ability to appoint officials with integrity. The DPP's foolish factional power struggles have undermined Tsai Ing-wen's ability to recruit professional talent. Factions have taken Tsai Ying-wen hostage. She is no longer able to move. Accomplishing anything will be difficult.
Thirdly, taking to the front lines will rapidly degrade the president's prestige. The FSC chairman has stepped down. Six agency heads are being prosecuted. Green media and political faction power struggles forced this move. But the final order was handed down by Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai Ing-wen is the leader of the nation. But when party factions call the shots, how can career officials perform their duties in accordance with the law?
A few days ago, the Tainan City Council Chairman by-election made waves. Tuan Yi-kang mocked fellow party member Acting Speaker Kuo Hsing-liang. Tuan said "The failure to elect a chairman is most beneficial to the vice chairman”. Kuo Hsing-liang asked for a leave of absence, and shelved the by-election. Eventually Tsai Ying-wen personally called Kuo Hsing-liang and asked him to resolve the matter. Tsai Ying-wen has been in office less than six months. Yet she is already being called upon to act as peacemaker. When a president must be hands-on and in the line of fire, the chances that she will take a bullet greatly increase, and her prestige as a leader will rapidly be diminished.
President Tsai Ying-wen will be facing more and more such challenges to her authority from within her own party. She will have to remember what she told her comrades in her letter to party members: "In politics, there is no one else. The responsibility is yours”. But responsibility means being able to resist pressure from the green media and party factions as well.