United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 20, 2016
Executive Summary: Most state violence during the authoritarian era was inflicted in the name of "national security" and "social stability". Even the hoarding of rice could lead to prosecution. As we think back, such measures were unreasonable. But amidst the turbulence of the era, it was seen as a means of social control. Today, Taiwan has undergone 30 years of democratization. Is it not shameful for the government to shout "transitional justice" while purging political opponents, evicting people from their property, bulldozing their homes, and climbing over each other to occupy official positions? Tsai would have us believe that state violence exists only in the history books. In fact, at the urging of the DPP, the specter of state violence has reemerged, cloaked in new camouflage, woven whole cloth from "transitional justice".
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In recent years, democracy has been in retreat. This has become a matter of global concern, and Taiwan is no exception. In a recent speech on World Human Rights Day, President Tsai reiterated the importance of "transitional justice", the need to confront history and ascertain the truth, in order to prevent the recurrence of state violence. Her speech was pretty. But if she thinks state violence exists only history books, she has blinded herself to reality. In fact, when Ms. Tsai took office seven months ago, signs of the new government's state violence were everywhere. The people saw this all too clearly.
When Tsai Ing-wen first came to power, she called for “qian bei, qian bei, zai qian bei”, i.e., "humility, humility, and more humility". But the moment she felt her hold on power was secure, she and the DPP began practicing a different sort of “qian bei, qian bei, zai qian bei”, i.e., “a thousand cups, a thousand cups, and a thousand cups more". She and the DPP became drunk, both from the alcohol they imbibed during celebratory feasts, and from the power they now abuse so flagrantly. "Transitional justice" has become the Tsai government's prime mover, its political pretext to proceed at full speed and run amok. Meanwhile many developments have left people in shock. Tsai and the DPP have lined their pockets, purged their opponents, ignored the law, and treated the public with contempt, all in the name of "transitional justice". In short, even as Tsai Ing-wen points to history and condemns "state violence", she commits new forms of state violence, about which she appears utterly oblivious.
The most obvious example is her use of the CIPAS to conduct a political purge of the Kuomintang. The public hoped to see KMT party assets dealt with in a reasonable and transparent manner. Doing so would enable party politics to begin anew on a level playing field. But Wellington Koo wielded power as if it were an executioner's axe. Any business or individual who had anything to do with the KMT was summoned, stigmatized, and accused. Even when the High Administrative Court and Supreme Administrative Court ruled that Koo had conducted himself improperly, he continued to act as if he was above the law. During the entire process, President Tsai and the DPP said nothing. What was this, if not naked state violence?
Such cases are ubiquitous. They differ only in degree. For example, the DPP was in office only three months when without any debate, it abused its majority in the legislature to abolish the Special Investigation Group. But the original proposal to establish the Special Investigation Group came from the DPP. The reason given then, was that high-ranking officials were guilty of corruption or dereliction of duty. But when the Special Investigation Group investigated Chen Shui-bian, it led to his imprisonment. The DPP wanted revenge, so it abolished the Special Investigation Group on its own. The DPP sees government institutions as tools to be used for the benefit of the party. It establishes them when it wants. It abolishes them when it wants. Its authoritarian mentality makes that of the Two Chiangs era pale by comparison.
Another example is the ruling DPP's seizure of state owned enterprises and even NGOs. These seizures are so flagrant they provoke disgust. If a new ruling party wants to assign credible individuals to head up state owned enterprises, that is perfectly understandable. But the successor's ability must be subject to careful evaluation. Many Tsai government appointments were made merely to mollify certain factions, or to reward certain cronies for their “cooperation”. This is hardly conducive to the development of the public sector. Even worse, some entities had term limits to avoid political controversy. Yet the ruling DPP used all manner of underhanded means to take them over. They include the Central News Agency, the Chinese Cultural Association, and the Taipei Agricultural Marketing Company. The Tsai government has repeatedly abused state power, and revealed zero tolerance for democracy.
Recently Chu Chi-yang, chairman of the Fair Friend Group, resigned as vice chairman of the Kuomintang think tank. The main reason was that the Fair Friend Group recently applied three times for bank loans, and all three times his applications were rejected. He then realized his presence was detrimental to the company. The Fair Friend Group has an annual turnover of over 40 billion dollars in machine tool business. Absent outside pressure, no bank would refuse to loan it money. When the CCP pressures pro-green camp Taiwan businessmen, the Tsai government takes its hostility out on pro-blue camp businessmen, and brutally oppresses them. Under such pressures from regimes on both sides of the Strait, how can businesses possibly enjoy normal development?
Most state violence during the authoritarian era was inflicted in the name of "national security" and "social stability". Even the hoarding of rice could lead to prosecution. As we think back, such measures were unreasonable. But amidst the turbulence of the era, it was seen as a means of social control. Today, Taiwan has undergone 30 years of democratization. Is it not shameful for the government to shout "transitional justice" while purging political opponents, evicting people from their property, bulldozing their homes, and climbing over each other to occupy official positions? Tsai would have us believe that state violence exists only in the history books. In fact, at the urging of the DPP, the specter of state violence has reemerged, cloaked in new camouflage, woven whole cloth from "transitional justice".