United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 28, 2016
Executive Summary: We must reform. But we must not resort to the abuse power, populist demagoguery, or totalitarian means. These inevitably lead to the collapse of democracy, the abrogation of the rule of law, and the destruction of constitutional rule. We believe Tsai is sincere in her desirre for reform. But if she acts in haste, if she behaves tyrannically and recklesslessly, if she breaks the law and tramples over the Constitution, even good intentions will pave the way to hell.
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The “Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee”, aka “Party Assets Committee”, has decided to confiscate the Kuomintang's Central Investment Company (CIC), and Hsinyutai Company. Even the KMT's Central Party Headquarters Building is being "nationalized". Wellington Koo, chairman of the Party Assets Committee, said that enforcement of the Party Assets Regulations is the final mile towards democracy. We think Wellington Koo and the Party Assets Committee are busy carving a tombstone for democracy and the rule of law, and that the Party Assets Regulations are an epitaph for democracy and the rule of law.
Those in the know have long advised the KMT to summon up the courage to reform, clarify the historical record, and give the party a fresh start. Doing so would have liberated the party from its historical burdens, and enabled it to begin anew. It would also establish a more equitable environment for intraparty competition. Alas, the KMT could not bring itself to give up short term advantages. It ignored long term risks. It could not bring itself to cease suckling at the party assets teat. It could not bring itself to sever its links to special interests. Naturally it could not avoid relentless green camp attacks during election season. Following its election defeat, the KMT is like a dog without a master. Its home has been invaded, and its property has been looted. Unwilling to part with its assets, it brought this disaster upon itself. It has only itself to blame.
That said, the Party Assets Committee, under the aegis of the Executive Yuan, has exceeded its authority. It has ignored the distinction between executive, legislative, and judicial authority. It has ignored the need for detailed investigation and due process of law. It has presumed guilt and imposed ex post facto law in order to designate KMT assets as “illicit”. In the name of the Republic of China, it invades homes and seizes property via asset forfeiture. The KMT has lost its party assets. That is nothing to lament. But the collapse of democracy can only turn peoples' hearts to dust. The collapse of the rule of law can only leave people heartbroken.
Wellington Koo is holding high the banner of justice. But what many see is the DPP's determination to cling to power indefinitely, by annihilating the KMT, by severing its arteries and cutting off its lifeblood. But given current political realities, the elimination of one of the blue and green parties will lead to one party rule and the overthrow of democracy. If the DPP succeeds in destroying the KMT, it alone will rule the roost. Democracy will be deprived of checks and balances. That is not a good thing. The DPP may be able to monopolize power for a while. But without the checks and balances provided by partisan rivalry, it will find it difficult to hold on to power indefinitely. Any attempt to do so will destroy democracy in the process.
The key is that the ends do not justify the means. Reform is necessary, but it must not be achieved by totalitarian means. Transitional justice is a noble goal. But it cannot justify the abuse of power or the violation of law and the constitution. Wellington Koo struts about haughtily, full of himself. He sees due process as a nuisance. He sees court decisions as irrelevant. He sees democracy and the rule of law as clods of dirt. He postures as a champion of justice. Anticipating the legal battle ahead, he lectures the KMT about "recognizing the true meaning of transitional justice". He instructs the courts to "appreciate the value of transitional justice". Wellington Koo wields the Party Assets Committee like a battle axe, swinging it wildly this way and that. Today's Taiwan now resembles the Chinese Mainland, during the Cultural Revolution, when an ill wind swept away all traces of democracy and the rule of law.
But most frightening of all, is Koo's attitude toward power. Tsai Ing-wen spoke of "humility, humility, and more humility". The slogan has lost all meaning. Like “communication, communication, and more communication", it is a wilted flower. The democratic values championed by the DPP when it was in the opposition, the principle of the rule of law and due process, have all become stumbling blocks now that the DPP is the ruling party. The DPP demands “total government”. How can it tolerate having its power locked away in a prison cell? The DPP demands swift justice. Why must it wait around while the wheels of justice grind ever so slowly? Since reform is sacrosanct, so what if one's methods are a little totalitarian? So what if the DPP regime must trample over the rule of law? With such a mentality, the emergence of power hungry demagogues such as Wellington Koo and the Party Assets Committee are inevitable.
The DPP has the KMT by the throat. The KMT may wish for a desperate last stand. Alas, even that would be difficult. As an old saying puts it, “The mountains and waters will meet again". Never burn one's bridges. Life always holds out new opportunities. Humiliations endured today will be rewarded ten times over tomorrow. The KMT may live or die. It may be reduced to Ah Q-style “spiritual victories”. But the most disturbing development is that under democracy, party politics has led to an endless cycle of revenge.
In fact, democracy, the rule of law, and constitutional rule, make up an inviolable line in the sand. Once that line has been crossed, it is all too easy to march down the road toward unlimited power and authoritarian dictatorship. It is all too easy to become caught up in populist demagoguery and political chaos. It is all too easy for society to break apart, for old hatreds to resurface, and for cycles of violence to prevail, leaving never a moment's peace.
We must reform. But we must not resort to the abuse power, populist demagoguery, or totalitarian means. These inevitably lead to the collapse of democracy, the abrogation of the rule of law, and the destruction of constitutional rule. We believe Tsai is sincere in her desirre for reform. But if she acts in haste, if she behaves tyrannically and recklesslessly, if she breaks the law and tramples over the Constitution, even good intentions will pave the way to hell.