Friday, February 27, 2009

Commemorate 228: But What are We Commemorating?

Commemorate 228: But What are We Commemorating?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 27, 2009

It's 228 again, i.e., February 28, the anniversary of the 228 Incident of 1947. This is the Ma administration's first 228. President Ma has ordered the 228 Foundation's 1.5 billion NT budget unfrozen, and plans drawn up for a national grade memorial hall.

Ma Ying-jeou feels bound by a deep sense of "original sin." His heartfelt desire to admit wrongdoing and apologize for 228 is palpable. Alas, he has never offered a balanced and objective assessment of 228. Meanwhile the Green Camp's calculated hate-mongering has ripped society apart. It has absolutely no intention of getting to the truth of the 228 Incident.

The 228 Incident is a political Gordian Knot, primarily because the truth has not been established. The ruling and opposition parties have remained bound by a variety of false and discredited explanations. Each side has its own prejudices. Each maintains its own position. Without a truthful explanation of 228, how can we commemorate 228?

Let's examine several explanations for the 228 Incident. One. The KMT's explanation. Initially the KMT considered 228 taboo. The KMT's explanation has been revised repeatedly. For example, Chinese Communists and Taiwan Communists took part in the 228 Incident, They were the best organized and most effective fighting force. But the KMT considered this part of the historical record taboo. It was afraid to lump Chinese Communists and Taiwan Communists together with the people of Taiwan. Over the past two decades, Lee Teng-hui tried to reestablish the historical facts. But because he himself was a part of the reunification vs. independence struggle, he too failed to lead the public out of this spiritual prison. Now Ma Ying-jeou is in office. He is the product of 228 reconciliation. But as mentioned earlier, although Ma earnestly seeks reconciliation, he lacks the ability to get at the truth.

Two. Beijing's explanation. From the beginning Beijing has viewed the 228 Incident as an extension of the civil war between the KMT and the CCP. It claims that mainland Chinese Communists and Taiwan Communists stood united, and constituted the main force of the 228 resistance army. Beijing commemorated the 228 Incident each year. Only when it was recast as an "ethnic" struggle over reunification vs. independence, did Beijing's commemoration of the event become more low-keyed, or even cease.

Three. The "228 Victim's Families" explanation. The death of their relatives cut them to the quick. It is natural for them to feel wronged and to want revenge. Over the past 60 years some have found peace. But others remain caught up in their grief. This has led to a variety of explanations. Today these rank among the chief explanations for 228.

Four. The "375 Landlords and Japanese Imperial Subjects" explanation. Workers' and peasants' class consciousness during Japanese occupation was one of the pillars of the opposition movement. Two large organizations, the Cultural Association and the Farmers Cooperative were socialist oriented. Their protests were an important part of the 228 incident. The KMT government disappointed the public. Elderly sharecroppers experienced hardship and anxiety. Taiwan Retrocession failed to imbue the public with a feeling of genuine citizenship. Ironically, over the past several decades, most of the political spin on the 228 Incident has been orchestrated by descendants of 375 landlords and Japanese Imperial Subjects. They have exploited resentments arising from 228 in order to exact revenge on behalf of 375 landlords and Japanese Imperial Subjects. How can their explanations of 228 not lead to distortions of the truth?

The most influential explanation of the incident, and also the most distorted explanation, is the Taiwan Independence or DPP explanation. This explanation asserts that the 228 Incident was an anti-KMT movement, an anti-mainlander movement, an anti-China movement, therefore it is a Taiwan independence movement. It has linked Taiwan independence to the 228 Incident. From an historical and factual perspective, this "explanation" is sheer fabrication. It has no basis in reality. In 1947, when the 228 Incident erupted, Taiwan independence was not even an issue. Commemoration of the 228 Incident today hardly requires advocacy of Taiwan independence. One. This distorted explanation of the historical reality of 228 eradicates or downplays the role of the Chinese Communists in 228. It drops the civil war between the KMT and CCP down the memory hole. Two. The Taiwan independence movement denies the Chinese Communists any role in the 228 Incident. It blanks out the class consciousness of workers and peasants during the 228 Incident. Descendants of 375 landlords and Japanese Imperial Subjects would later arrogate to themselves the right to interpret the 228 Incident. This is why to this day the Democratic Progressive Party remains a phony champion of socialism.

The moral of the 228 Incident is that incompetent rule harms the people. It forces them to rebel. But the specific reasons are complex and varied. Naturally our analysis of the various explanations is much too sketchy. Besides, more explanations of 228 have been offered. We merely wish to stress that each explanation is custom tailored, hence defective. That is why we must seek a comprehensive explanation, a true explanation. To ask people to commemorate 228 in the absence of a true explanation, a full explanation, is to ask people to kowtow before false idols fabricated by political charlatans.

In commemorating 228, we must reject the notion that of "mainlanders" are somehow riddled with "Original Sin," or that we must overthrow the Republic of China. This is not a truthful explanation of 228. Only a false explanation of 228 demands "ethnic" strife and Taiwan independence. In order to commemorate 228, isn't it necessary to first establish the facts surrounding 228?

Merely bowing and scraping and apologizing, without telling the whole story, will merely add fuel to the fire. It will merely play into continuing efforts to incite hatred. It will not establish the truth.

2009.02.27 03:56 am











Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taiwan's Economy Cannot Withstand the Impact of ASEAN Plus One

Taiwan's Economy Cannot Withstand the Impact of ASEAN Plus One
China Times Daily editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 26, 2009

Businesses, think tanks, and political parties have all presented their positions on whether Taipei should sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with Beijing. In order to understand why both industries and the government feel such an urgent need to promote CECA, we must begin by looking at global economic trends.

In 2001, the mainland and Taiwan became part of the World Trade Organization (WTO). We initially assumed that under the WTO's multilateral agreements, our foreign trade would enjoy considerable protection. But negotiations over the Doha Agreements have remained stalled. Instead, regional economic interests have come to the fore. Two to three hundred governments have signed regional economic agreements with each other. The one that affects the Republic of China most is the East Asian Free Trade Zone, better known as ASEAN Plus One (ASEAN Plus Beijing) to be signed in January next year, or possibly ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN plus Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul).

Once the East Asia Free Trade Zone becomes official, most products traded within the region will be tariff free. Economies within the region will of course benefit. But those outside may be severely harmed. Taiwan's economy will bear the brunt of the impact. Most Taiwan companies' exports go to the mainland. Together with Hong Kong, the mainland accounts for nearly 40% of our exports. ASEAN accounts for over 10%. Once Taiwan is excluded from the East Asian Free Trade Area, over half of Taiwan's exports will be affected. If ASEAN Plus Three becomes a reality, exports to Japan and Korea, amounting to 10%, will bring the affected total to 60%.

This is a low margin era. Most businesses enjoy only single digit profit margins. Our competitors will pay no tariffs, while we are subjected to tariffs of 10% on textiles and 6.5% on petrochemical products. For manufacturers the danger is not thinner margins or fewer orders, the danger is having to close up shop after being eliminated from the market.

In the middle and long term, in order to maintain their profits and to survive, businesses will be forced to uproot themselves and relocate. They will be forced to invest and set up factories inside the East Asia Free Trade Zone. Investment and employment opportunities on Taiwan will sharply decline.

Can our economy withstand such an impact? The East Asian Free Trade Zone will soon be established. Economists' estimates of its impact on our economy may vary. But all agree that economic growth is declining while unemployment is rising. Regardless, the negative impact is not something the public wants to see. Nor is it something our constitutionally weakened economy can sustain. Once the negative impact is felt, those harmed will not be limited to industry. The economy as a whole and everyone in it will suffer.

Put simply, signing CECA is of the utmost urgency. The reason is not to strengthen economic and trade relations with the mainland, but to alleviate the negative impact of the East Asia Free Trade Zone on our economy. It is easy for politicians to demagogue the issue. But if the opposition DPP and TSU want to oppose CECA, they must offer us a viable alternative. They must tell us how to alleviate the destructive impact of the East Asia Free Trade Zone on our economy.

Let's get back to basics, to people's fundamental interests and to the public welfare. Comparative advantage and bilateral trade can create greater economic benefits. Some people want to open Taiwan up to more mainland products. This will severely impact Taiwan, and is clearly contrary to the principle of comparative advantage. A previous wave of raw material price increases triggered inflation. Before that the world enjoyed low-inflation economic growth. They could buy cheaper goods. They benefitted from newcomers joining the ranks of global production, including the mainland,

Now let's look at the changes in Taiwan's industrial base over the past twenty years. Companies producing labor-intensive, low value-added goods, were weeded out or relocated. The resources were made available to high-end, high value-added products, making possible today's Silicon Island. Globalization is subjecting Taiwan's businesses to global purchasing pressure and peer competition. Refuse to make use of the mainland's resources and markets, and one will find it difficult to survive in the global market. Industry trends over the past few years bears this out.

In short, the most pressing challenge for our economy is coping with ASEAN Plus One once it is initiated in January. The export competitiveness of our businesses has fallen sharply. Our economy faces marginalization. CECA is the most realistic solution. Opposition parties are worried about sovereignty and terminology. This is understandable. But solutions can be found during negotiations. To stubbornly dig in one's heels, while failing to alleviate the economic pressures caused by ASEAN Plus One is flagrantly irresponsible. We hope the ruling party will address internal differences and concerns. We hope it will make every effort to resolve and accommodate differences. It should also use the political opposition as the "bad cop," in order to fight for better terms.

中國時報  2009.02.26











Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How Would the DPP Have People Respond to ASEAN Plus Three?

How Would the DPP Have People Respond to ASEAN Plus Three?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 25, 2009

Last weekend the Presidential Office and the Straits Exchange Foundation held a Conference on Financial and Economic Affairs, and a Conference on National Affairs. The question of whether the Taipei and Beijing should sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) led to yet another confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties. The government intends to promote CECA. The Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwan Solidarity Union vehemently oppose it.

In fact, ASEAN plus One, the One being Beijing, or ASEAN plus Three, the Three being Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul, all came into being during the Democratic Progressive Party's eight year regime. An Internet search will show that during this eight-year period, both ruling and opposition party cognoscenti were aware of the situation. Even the Chen administration's economic and trade officials and research organizations issued stern warnings. But during its eight years in power, the DPP government deliberately sat on this life and death issue. It never warned the public about the dangers or put the issue up for public discussion. The situation has deteriorated to where it is now a matter of extreme urgency. The DPP not only refuses to apologize to the public for the past eight years, all it is willing to do is say "No!"

Next year ASEAN plus One will implement mutual exemption of tariffs. In 2012 ASEAN plus Three will do the same. The population of ASEAN plus Three totals two billion. It will be the world's most populous free trade body. If it develops into ASEAN plus Six, adding India, Australia, and New Zealand, its population will total 3.1 billion, over half the world. Taipei has close economic and trade ties to these Asia-Pacific nations. Exports and trade with them constitute over half of Taiwan's total exports and trade. We have to ask the DPP: If the public on Taiwan is excluded from an economic framework consisting of two to three billion people, does it have any chance of survival?

The Democratic Progressive Party may object to CECA. But it cannot deny the impact of ASEAN plus N on Taiwan's economic lifeblood. Therefore if the Democratic Progressive Party want to oppose CECA, it must offer the people an alternative.

The Democratic Progressive Party's fatal illness is that when asked to offer strategies for the nation's survival, it knows only how to say no. It is unable to offer any viable alternatives. For example, the DPP knows only how to repudiate the Republic of China, even when it is obvious that Taiwan Independence and the establishment of a Nation of Taiwan is not a viable alternative. Today, the Democratic Progressive Party opposes CECA. But it hasn't offered the public any alternative. Are we to understand that the DPP's "alternative" is Taiwan Independence and the establishment of a Nation of Taiwan?

Does the DPP intend to oppose CECA regardless of the consequences? Or is it willing to conditionally endorse CECA? For example, is the DPP opposed only to articles within CECA that it says "harm our sovereignty?" Is it willing to endorse CECA upon the condition that it does not "harm our sovereignty?" Is the DPP willing to endorse CECA on the express or tacit understanding that Beijing will not prevent Taipei's participation in ASEAN or Taipei's signing of FTAs with other nations, and that CECA will not run the risk of tying Taipei's hands. The DPP need no longer play the role of "Mr. No." It should consider playing a positive role, one that will win it points. If it wants to keep saying no, the Democratic Progressive Party must offer a viable alternative. It cannot "just say no."

Tsai Ing-wen said that CECA is not merely an economic and trade issue, that it is also a political issue involving sovereignty. But CECA is not a political issue. It is fundamentally an economic and trade issue. The Republic of China's sovereignty has often been distorted. This is so without CECA. It is not any more so with CECA. Put simply, as long as CECA does not specify reunification or One Country, Two Systems, as long as after signing CECA, the Republic of China continues to elect its own President, as long as the Legislative Yuan continues operating, business as usual, as long as the Judicial Yuan remains open for business, how exactly does CECA "harm our sovereignty?" If CECA helps Taipei avoid the risk of economic and trade marginalization, and allows it to participate in ASEAN plus N or the East Asian Economic Community, isn't it "increasing our sovereignty?"

CECA is not something that sprang out of a rock. It is an issue the DPP has attempted to squash for eight years. The Democratic Progressive Party was in power for eight years. It committed the colossal blunder of ignoring a problem, thereby allowing it to grow. Does it still insist on severing economic and trade links between Taipei and ASEAN?

The Democratic Progressive Party may object to CECA. But it must offer a responsible alternative. Please do not tell us that alternative is Taiwan independence. Because that will make our participation in ASEAN plus N even less likely!

2009.02.25 02:29 am










Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wu Shu-chen Gives the Political Donation Law a Slap in the Face

Wu Shu-chen Gives the Political Donation Law a Slap in the Face
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 24, 2009

The Political Donation Law has been stalled in the Legislative Yuan for years. Now, finally, the Control Yuan has made public a list of political contributors. This has subjected the campaign contributions of corporate contributors to Blue and Green political parties and presidential candidates to the bright glare of the sun. Ironically, within 24 hours, Wu Shu-chen made a second revelation. She reportedly blew the whistle on 20 major contributors, who made three billion in campaign contributions. More importantly, Wu Shu-chen's hidden books were never reported to the Control Yuan, making clear her contempt for the law. For all intents and purposes, she gave the Political Donation Law a hard slap in the face.

In fact, ever since Chen's secret overseas money-laundering accounts were revealed last August 14, Chen Shui-bian has used campaign contributions to shield himself from prosecution. From the beginning he has insisted that money transferred overseas was leftover campaign contributions. In response to the Lungtan Corruption scandal, Chen Shui-bian referred to the money he received as "campaign contributions," and disowned all responsibility for it. A law ostensibly intended to make campaign contributions transparent, has become a tool for corruption. Where did our Political Donation Law go wrong?

Since the nineties, in pace with a raised political consciousness, the public has expressed its distaste for money politics. But apart from the Public Servant Property Declaration Act, other bills such as the Sunshine Law have failed to make it through the legislature. It was only in 2004, during President Chen Shui-bian's re-election campaign, that suspicions arose regarding Chen Yu-hao's campaign contributions to Chen Shui-bian. Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen flatly denied, again and again, that they had taken any money from Chen Yu-hao. Chen Shui-bian gave orders that Chen faction members of the Legislative Yuan sponsor a "stringent" Political Donation Law. Wu Shu-chen recently confessed to receiving billions in campaign contributions from conglomerates, many following Chen's "re-election" in 2004. Obviously, Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen never gave the Political Donation Law a second thought. Worse, they turned the Political Donation Law into a fig leaf to cover the Chen family's criminal activities.

Of course, the bosses of financial conglomerates in doubt about asking prices began delivering hundreds of millions to the president's official residence. They even deposited money in Chen's overseas accounts. To call these "campaign contributions" is more than a little far-fetched. Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen, in an attempt to paint others as black as himself, argued that these financial conglomerates gave even more to the KMT, but prosecutors have chosen to prosecute only them! What can we blame, but a Political Donation Law that has great ambitions but little ability.

Republic of China election campaigns, particularly presidential campaigns, are extremely expensive. The Political Donation Law stipulates that individuals may not contribute more than 100,000 NT in any given year. Profit-making enterprises may not contribute more than one million NT. Legislators did not set such stringent standards out of political idealism. In fact the complete lack of stringent standards was one of the preconditions for passage of the Political Donation Law.

In 1974 the United States "Federal Election Campaign Law" established a "Federal Election Commission." Commission members have professional staff and the right to investigate. Only that enables it to investigate false declarations. By contrast, look at our own Political Donation Law. The Control Yuan is charged with investigating campaign contributions. Control Yuan members have the right to investigate. But more than a few public officials have admitted both publicly and privately that the amount they declared is less than half of what they received. But has the Control Yuan investigated or prosecuted a single one of these?

And even if the Control Yuan decided to get tough, what tools does it have at hand? False declarations of campaign contributions by dishonest politicians and political parties, is punishable by a maximum of fine of 1,000,000 NT, approximately 30,000 US. Such a slap on the wrist provides politicians with a reason to lie, thereby breaking the law. Dlections are hotly contested on Taiwan. Therefore politicians have few scruples about fund-raising. Only then can they have access to immense political and economic benefits. After all, no one makes a serious effort to check. And in the event one is unlucky enough to be found out, the fine is a mere 1,000,000 NT. Politicians, know how to read a balance sheet, and have little trouble deciding which way to go.

Politicians are highly adaptable creatures. No matter how airtight the law might be, they will find loopholes, they will find a backdoor. In the painful aftermath of the Watergate scandal, the US decided to pass the "Federal Election Campaign Law." As we can see from this brief history, campaign reform is useless. The law is constantly rewritten. Election expenses increase geometrically. Obama's fund-raising has once again broken previous records.

Therefore, experts who have studied campaign contributions say the key to reform is transparency. Setting ultra-high standards is not as good as conceding that modest campaign contributions are a necessary evil, and adopting more realistic contribution limits. But false declarations must be severely punished. The Political Donation Law must no longer be a hypocritical law, a way for Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen to get off scot-free. These are factors the legislators amending the law must consider.

中國時報  2009.02.24










Monday, February 23, 2009

A Bad Law is Not The Law

A Bad Law is Not The Law
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 23, 2009

Two years ago, one million people took to the streets to denounce corruption and demand that Ah-Bian step down. Prosecutors charged them with violating the Parade and Assembly Law. Yesterday the Taipei District Court Full Court pronounced Shih Ming-teh, Jane Tin-jie, Wei Qian Feng, Fan Ke-qin, Yao Li-ming, and 16 others not guilty. The legislature is considering amending the law. The court's ruling show how the Parade and Assembly Law has become an obstacle to the rule of law.

The court's not guilty ruling may have take some legal experts by surprise. They may even had take many of the defendants by surprise. One of the greatest challenges for the rule of law is the existence of a bad law. Is a bad law still the law? Or is a bad law not a law? In the West this philosophy of law dilemma has been debated for nearly a thousand years. Under such circumstances, judges must decide what constitutes a just ruling. In this case the Taipei District Court's three judges found the defendants not guilty. Their ruling implied that the Parade and Assembly Law was a bad law. But since the Legislative Yuan is amending the law, the trial court should not pre-empt it. Although the defendants asked the Grand Justices for a ruling on the constitutionality of the Parade and Assembly Law, the District Court did not stop its indictment proceedings. The judges adopted a conservative approach in dealing with their own constitutional review function. They dealt with the enforcement dilemma created by a bad law by presuming it was constitutional. They did not shirk their responsibility to be an impartial referee.

The Parade and Assembly Law is a bad law, not because some pundits have jumped to this conclusion, but ruling party succession leads to rival political parties taking turns making the identical accusations. Although this law purports to protect of freedom of assembly, it establishes all sorts of technical obstacles to freedome of assembly. In particular, it targets political rallies and marches. This case makes this unmistakably clear. The government agency in charge did not permit the Red Shirt Army to march because the Red Shirt Army had political motives, and was not merely participating in National Day celebrations. The agency's reasoning was inconsistent with due process. The way the Parade and Assembly Law is enforced makes it clear its intent was to limit political demonstrations. It doesn't matter if the demonstration is peaceful. Obviously a Parade and Assembly Law intended to suppress political expression conflicts with freedom of assembly and speech, core values guaranteed by the constitution. That is why the Parade and Assembly Law is a bad law that a nation under the rule of law cannot tolerate.

To peacefully assemble or march to express one's views about society or the government, is a legitimate activity that a democratic system must respect. Government should take the initiative to provide timely and appropriate venues for the public to peacefully exercise their right of public assembly. The more people assemble peacefully, the more obvious it is the system has political legitimacy. Millions of people taking to the streets may upset those in power. But those in power feeling upset is no reason to prohibit peaceful assembly. Over one million Red Shirt Army members repeatedly gathered on the streets of Taipei. Every time they concluded their activities peacefully. They were a model of mature large-scale political assembly. A handful of technical violations warrant, at best, a few fines. When the public protested against those in power, they weren't necessarily repudiating the lawful authority of the ruling administration. Once the ruling administration steps down, the Red Shirt Army's charges of corruption can be verified by means of the judicial process. Sure enough, their charges turned out to be neither groundless nor unfounded.

If corrupt rulers have yet to be convicted of corruption, yet the government suppresses peaceful protest, that proves the Parade and Assembly Law is a bad law that cannot be tolerated under constitutional government.

The courts once held that although the Parade and Assembly Law was a bad law, it was still the law. They imprisoned many people they shouldn't have. This time the court used its judgment. It applied the principle of proportionality. It refused to use a bad law to imprison political dissidents. It was a rare case of a double negative making a positive. If people understand how the protection of fundamental rights prevents the abuse of power and safeguards constitutional government. they will affirm the ruling. They will not challenge the court's decision. They will not cling to the outdated notion that a bad law is still the law. They will not prolong the political evil known as the Parade and Assembly Law.

The District Court ruling was well written. We look forward to the legislative branch reviewing and amending the Parade and Assembly Law as soon as possible. We would also remind public leaders that mass movements are unpredictable. Public leaders must exercise self-restraint, and help to maintain social order. Freedom of speech and social order are both rights protected by constitutional government. You can have your cake and eat it too. The court must stay the course, and have the guts to uphold justice. We hope the Legislative Yuan will follow the example set by the court when it acquitted the defendants. We hope it will swiftly pass an amendment, putting an end to the Parade and Assembly Law.

中國時報  2009.02.23








Friday, February 20, 2009

Are You Ready for A Long Dark Night?

Are You Ready for A Long Dark Night?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 20, 2009

We knew the numbers were not good. The economy experienced a significant 8.36% decline in the fourth quarter last year. This year's economic growth will be negative, and turn positive only in the fourth quarter. Growth for the year declined 2.97%. Nevertheless one cannot help being shocked at the seriousness of the crisis. Faced with this prolonged economic recession, the government must offer a more aggressive and comprehensive response.

The causes of the worst economic crisis in our history are obvious. The global economic crisis caused demand to disappear overnight. Taiwan's export-driven economy immediately dropped into an abyss. Exports have fallen dramatically. Profits and revenues have plummeted. Unemployment has risen. Unpaid leave is now common. This has led to the largest drop ever in private consumption and revenues. The future looks grim. Orders have evaporated. Private investment has been scaled back across the board.

Let's look at the numbers. January exports fell by 44.1%. Even discounting the effect of the Spring Festival, exports fell 34.9%. Exports are expected to fall by as much as 20% this year. Consumers may have 80 billion NT in consumer vouchers. But this year's growth rate is a mere 0.82%. Private investment is expected to fall 28%, having fallen over 40% in the first quarter.

Monetary policies such as interest rate cuts attempt to boost investment. Exchange rate policies such as currency devaluation attempt to promote exports. Consumer vouchers attempt to increase private consumption. But the impact of such policies is limited, because demand has evaporated. Currency devaluation cannot promote exports. The future looks grim. Zero interest rates cannot attract investments. Confidence has vanished. Once the consumer vouchers have been used up, private consumption will remain idle.

In other words, apart from the public sector, almost all economic growth has flamed out. How can one possibly be optimistic about the economy? Therefore, the government's responsibility is far greater than it was in the past. The effect of many policies may be just a drop in the bucket, but the government cannot refuse to act. Its actions must be more comprehensive and prudent. Only by doing the right thing when the economy has bottomed out, can it help the economy to rebound as soon as possible.

Interest rate cuts at a time like this cannot stimulate private investment. But at least they can give mortgage rates a breather. Allowing households to extend their mortgage policies will at least prevent the mortgage market from becoming another disaster area. Otherwise, mortgage defaults will surge. People will be left homeless, creating social problems. Large numbers of non-performing loans are another potentional landmine.

Currency devaluation cannot create foreign demand. But at least it can ensure that the most important engine of all, exports, will not simultaneous experience a sharp drop in demand. It will spare exports from a harsh exchange rate environment. According to domestic export forecasts for January, high tech products will decline. If the "Two Trillion, Twin Stars" industries, such as the LCD screen industry decline 70% or more, the entire DRAM industry will largely be done for.

The economic engine has flamed out. The most effective action the government can take is increase domestic demand, increase government procurement and public construction. It should do so promptly and aggressively. It should also vigorously promote economic openness and liberalization.

Faced with an unprecedented, protracted, and deep economic recession, the government must bolster the economy, creating a virtuous circle. Even more important, far more important than economic policy, is a comprehensive social safety net. Society must not be allowed to descend into chaos under the impact of this economic depression.

We have already seen a number of countries reel under the impact of the financial crisis. These include the comparatively backward economies of Latvia, Chile, Greece, and Iceland, where street protests have erupted. Waves of labor strikes have broken out in the Group of Seven, and even Britain and France. Dennis Blair, US Director of National Intelligence, warned that the economic turmoil triggered by the global economic crisis has become the United States' greatest security threat, more to be feared than terrorism.

People on Taiwan are good natured and rational. The rule of law is firmly established. The family structure remains strong. This enables family members to maintain a minimum standard of living during an economic downturn, when unemployment is on the rise. It can buffer some of the factors contributing to social unrest. The savings rate on Taiwan is high. This provides a certain amount of capital during a downturn. These are important assets during the global recession that will help maintain social order.

These are no guarantee that we will pass through the crisis without incident. If unemployment continues to surge, if people have no incomes, and even the basic cost of living increases, the result will be a decline in law and order. Even basic public safety will be difficult to maintain. The social structure is likely to collapse. Foreign investors will leave. Investments will vanish. The economy will be in serious trouble.

This chances of this worst case scenario happening on Taiwan is not high. But the government must take preventive measures. It must build a better social safety net, thereby stabilizing society and allowing everyone to safely pass through the storm. This is something the government must do. It may require substantial resources. But it is essential. Therefore the government must make prudent use of its resources, it must not throw money about, squandering precious resources.

DGBAS forecasts five consecutive quarters of negative growth. This will be the longest period of economic darkness in recorded history. Clearly we are in for a long, dark night. We can only bite the bullet and stay the course. Is the government ready? Can it lead? Can it help the people safely make it through this long dark night?

中國時報  2009.02.20
社論-漫漫長夜 準備好了嗎















Thursday, February 19, 2009

If the Mountain Won't Come to Ma, Ma Must Go to the Mountain

If the Mountain Won't Come to Ma, Ma Must Go to the Mountain
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 19, 2009

This weekend the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) will hold a "People's Conference on National Affairs." DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen extended an invitation to President Ma Ying-jeou, and helpfully added, "If President Ma doesn't attend, then he is refusing to listen to the voice of the people." "If the Ma administration refuses to listen to the voice of the people, then it will be difficult to prevent the people from taking to the streets."

Chairman Tsai's declaration was a tad domineering in its tone. It even carried a veiled threat. Whether the conference will even achieve its expected goals remains in doubt. Nevertheless since the DPP has already offered him an invitation, President Ma may as well accept, demonstrating the magnanimity of a national leader.

Nineteen years ago, Lee Teng-hui responsed to public calls for reform. He wanted to use public opinion against conservative forces within the KMT. That led him to hold the first of such conferences. At the time, the DPP underwent heated internal debates on whether to participate. Huang Hsin-chieh and other moderates agreed to take part. Chiou I-jen and others who believed in working outside the system vehemently refused.

The ruling and opposition party members taking part in the Conference on National Affairs that year had different long term goals. But because they shared a common premise, they transformed the conference into an engine for democratic reform. They facilitated the direct election of the president and other major constitutional reforms.

Although his successor President Chen Shui-bian never convened a Conference on National Affairs, during his term of office he sponsored two National Finance Conferences, with the intention of imitating Lee Teng-hui. Responding to calls for him to rescue the economy, he invited ruling and opposition party leaders. But Chen Shui-bian betrayed the people's expectations. Neither National Finance Conference yielded any results. Cross-strait direct links and other major resolutions were shelved for eight years. They were realized only after the Ma Ying-jeou administration took over. The Second Financial Reform Program was a giant mess, left behind by the Chen administration.

Two former presidents held large scale Conferences on National Affairs. Evaluations of their worth have varied since they were first held. People differ on whether such political rituals as Conferences on National Affairs have any practical function. But the Republic of China now finds itself in a social and economic bind seldom seen in a hundred years. The public wants the ruling and opposition parties to work together, more urgently than ever. We recommend that President Ma attend the Conference on National Affairs, for the following five reasons.

One. The so-called People's Conference on National Affairs, is something ruling KMT leaders should have organized. They should have reached out to opposition parties. But since the DPP has already taken the initiative to hold such a conference, and to extend an open invitation to President Ma Ying-jeou, he might as well take advantage of it and attend. The conference would then be upgraded and integrated into the nation's political institutions. He would avoid giving offense and becoming a laughing stock. By listening to the people he would also display the magnanimity appropriate for a head of state.

Two. When Lee Teng-hui convened his Conference on National Affairs he needed outside assistance. He need people such as the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen, who wants to effect reforms. Lee Teng-hui was not afraid the Democratic Progressive Party would gain political status as a result of the Conference on National Affairs. Ma Ying-jeou has the support of a supermajority in the legislature. He need not worry that attending an event organized by Tsai Ing-wen will increase her power and prestige. President Ma should actively help the moderates within the Democratic Progressive Party. He should allow them to emerge from the shadows of the past, and to take a more moderate path.

Three. Since Chairperson Tsai has invited President President Ma to the event, he is the guest. She must therefore treat him as the president. She may not allow him to be treated disrespectfully or to be embarrassed. To do so would amount to a serious breach of etiquette, and she would find it hard to escape severe public condemnation.

Four. President Ma has never been much of a communicator. Whether the communication is intraparty or interparty, his record has been nothing to boast about. He has repeatedly invited Chairperson Tsai to the Presidential Palace to exchange views, to hold a "Two Yings Conference." But he always left the impression he was being condescending. Today, the mountain will not come to Ma. Therefore Ma must go to the mountain. He should personally attend the Conference on National Affairs. If Chairman Tsai refuses to open channels of communication with him, she will be the one to lose popular support.

Five. The government has prepared a number of programs to rescue the economy. But not one of them involved consultation with other parties. This Conference on National Affairs adresses financial and economic issues. Both the DPP and Taiwan Solidarity Union are political parties within the system. If President Ma takes part in the Conference on National Affairs, the event will be seen as something contained within the system. It will reinforce the notion that the conclusions of the conference should be dealt with within the system. It may remedy many of the shortcomings in interparty programs intended to rescue the economy.

Entering an opposition party's conference is not that difficult. Reaching out to one's opponents in good faith is not that embarrassing. Listening to voices critical of oneself is not that distressing. President Ma should perceive the invitation as a rare opportunity, and calmly attend. Because when an opposition party invites the president to take part in a People's Conference on National Affairs President Ma can respond from his exalted position as head of state. If the mountain will not come to Ma, then Ma must go to the mountain.

2009.02.19 04:04 am













Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ProMOS vs. National Health Insurance

ProMOS vs. National Health Insurance:
How the Government Treats Big Business Differently Than Ordinary Citizen
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 18, 2009

Banks have agreed to loan ProMOS Technologies three billion NT. That was a first step in providing relief to the DRAM industry. On the same day, the Department of Health announced its "Health Care Reform Program." It would impose a "National Health Insurance Tax" on over two million people, to compensate for the Bureau of National Health Insurance deficit. These two seemingly unrelated events revealed the vast difference in the government's attitude toward Big Business and the ordinary citizen.

The DRAM industry has suffered hundreds of billions of dollars in losses. For the past few months, everyone including the President, the Premier, and the Minister of Economic Affairs, has promised to rescue the industry, and even promised hundreds of billions in National Development Funds to rebuild the industry. The government's concern for Big Business truly is all-encompassing. By contrast, the government wants to levy a National Health Insurance Tax on ordinary citizens who earn over 180,000 NT by moonlighting. It neither consulted the public before implementing this policy, nor explained its decision. It simply went ahead and did it. It immediately butchered the fatted calf it had selected. The Department of Health even had the chutzpah to refer to their callous move as "Health Care Reform."

Both the DRAM industry and health care involve deficits. But when large private sector businesses lose hundreds of billions, the government immediately offers relief. When the Bureau of National Health Insurance loses 20 billion, the government doesn't consider how to improve the system in order to control costs. Instead, it immediately reaches into the pockets of ordinary citizens to make up the shortfall. It bows and scrapes before Big Business. It looks down its nose at the little guy. Is this how a democratic government is supposed to treat its citizens, according to economic or social class?

Whether the government should ought to relief for ailing industries and whether it is obligated to ensure the solvency of the health care system are different matters. They require different solutions. It is not our intention to conflate the two. What we want to point out is that the government treats Big Business and the little guy very differently. From the perspective of social justice, this is intolerable.

The DRAM industry is important. But many DRAM companies have flatly refused to go along with the Ministry of Economic Affairs industry consolidation plan. The government's intervention has not been welcomed, and has been an exercise in frustration. By contrast, the National Health Insurance was originally supposed to be a health insurance policy. Yet the government has redefined it as social welfare. Everyone receives the same health care. Yet the government has continually raised the rates for users to make up for its own inability to fulfill its committments. Is this reasonable?

Look at some recent examples. Bank deposit interest rates are now close to zero. Yet bank credit card interest rates run as high as 20%. This is sheer exploitation, no different than loan-sharking. Last year, after FSC consultation, most banks grudgingly lowered their rates one or two percentage points. They were clearly going through the motions, and were still exploiting consumers. The banks are arrogant because the government has spoiled them for much too long. When the Special Investigation Unit investigated the Second Financial Reform scandal, it discovered that many banks resorted to bribery. By currying favor with Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen, they hoped to gain an edge over competitors during their acquisition efforts. Unfortunately, prosecutors are frightened of financial consortia. During their interrogations they dared not dig too deep. They merely went through the motions. Do the two examples we have examined, not confirm that the government bows and scrapes before financial consortia, but looks down its nose at ordinary citizens?

Taiwan's DRAM industry, is a monster created by the Chen administration, the product of "Two Trillion, Twin Stars" and anabolic steroids. Too many companies crowd the field, too much capital has been invested, and the technology is too heterogeneous. These companies are saddled with 400 billion in loans. They cannot produce efficiently, are underutilized, and lose money. The government can sink billions into them. They can help them squeak by, for now. But if they do not undergo radical restructuring, they will still be unable to compete with South Korea.

The best thing the government can do is to allow the market to eliminate the unfit. Natural selection will leave the strong standing, allowing them become the backbone of the industry. This way, Taiwan's DRAM industry will not collapse or disappear. It will fortify itself from within. Germany's Qimonda has declared bankruptcy, temporarily reducing pressure on the global DRAM industry. This is a good example of market selection. But if our government intervenes, if officials shoot off their mouths, not only will they provoke market speculation, they will throw a monkeywrench into any restructuring plans the industry already has in the pipeline. ProMOS Technologies has been saved, for the time being. But the entire industry is in a wait-and-see mode. The downside is great. The upside is non-existent.

The National Health Insurance system faces the same problem. If the government is sincere, the least it can do is offer a public accounting of the National Health Insurance system's finances. It should brief the people on where the money went. How much money did the National Health Insurance Bureau save through aggressive cost-cutting measures? What is needed to make up the deficit? If it can persuade the public, everyone is sure to do his best to ensure that the health care system does not fail. National Health Insurance Bureau workers received year-end bonuses equalling four months wages. Yet the Department of Health has, out of the blue, decided to wring "Health Insurance Taxes" from two million citizens. The system was clearly meant to be a form of insurance. Yet the government is redefining it as a form of taxation. How can this be justified?

2009.02.18 03:45 am










Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Chen Corruption Case: A Painful Lesson for Corporate Heads

The Chen Corruption Case: A Painful Lesson for Corporate Heads
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 17, 2009

Before the Chen Corruption Scandal exploded, who knew people could be so greedy? Before the Chen Corruption Scandal exploded, who knew government/business collusion could be so appallingly ugly?

Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen's power and greed were in direct proportional to each other. The greater their power, the more closely knit their government/business connections, the more insatiable their greed. When they first entered the political arena, they had yet to establish relations with wealthy industrialists. Their sponsors were primarily small and medium business owners who supported the "dang wai" movement. These people were close to the Chen family from early on. But as long as they did not allow themselves to be seduced by Chen Shui-bian's ever-growing power, as long as they did not attempt to gain illicit financial advantage, they were spared involvement in the Chen family's corruption scandals. Those who chose to become Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen's partners in crime, such as Wu Shu-chen's former classmate Tsai Mei-li, long supported each other out of friendship. Their association with the Chen family degenerated to the point where entire families became Chen family accomplices. They brought pressure to bear upon government agencies, they exploited their connections to win sweetheart contracts, they even brokered financial industry deals. By exploiting their political and business connections, they amassed vast sums of illicit wealth.

During Chen Shui-bian's term as Taipei Mayor the Chen family began collecting so-called "campaign contributions." They also began depositing their money offshore. But it wasn't until Chen Shui-bian's first term as president that people discovered to what depths this former crusader against "black gold" politics had sunk, and the depth of his involvement in government/business collusion. Only after the State Affairs Fund scandal erupted, did people realize Chen Shui-bian's self-imposed 50% pay cut upon taking office was an act. The State Affairs Funds the Chen family applied for and obtained using forged receipts far exceeded his salary. The Red Shirt Army movement to end corruption and depose Ah-Bian, held a month long sit-in at Ketagelan Boulevard. Chen Shui-bian blasted those who accused him of corruption. Wu Shu-chen meanwhile quietly busied herself moving money out of the country. This money came out of the pockets of industry tycoons. Based on figures Wu Shu-chen provided the Special Investigation Unit, the funds add up to at least 1.8 billion NT.

Industrial tycoons offered Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen anywhere from tens of millions to hundreds of millions in commissions, bribes, and corporate campaign contributions. The wives of wealthy cronies provided invoices for the State Affairs Fund. Construction company owners provided bribes to building committee jurors and government officials. The chairmen of holding companies involved in the Second Financial Reform scandal, and high-tech company heads, all made pilgrimages to the president's official residence, each with their own motives. Some were extremely wealthy. They merely enjoyed moving about within the circles of power. They considered it a matter of pride to be able to come and go from the president's official residence. These famous tycoons enjoyed showing off before the public. Others may not have wanted anything in particular from the Chen family. But because everyone was giving gifts, why not give one as well? Giving gifts was like taking out an insurance policy. Some may have been in financial straits. Some needed to expand their businesses. Giving large sums of money was like paying an admission price. It was a chance to get oneself out of a financial bind. Their motivations may have been different. Their eventual fates may also be different. For some of them, the jig is already up. For others, the alarms have just been sounded. But at this stage, they all wish they could turn the clock back.

Government/business collusion was not always as appallingly ugly as it was under the Chen regime. During Two Chiangs Era, government and business were kept entirely separate. Any official who dared to open the back door, who accepted entertainment or hospitality from merchants, would be in serious trouble once he was found out. Chiang Ching-kuo had a son-in-law who was a businessman, who brooded for years. When Lee Teng-hui assumed office government and business converged for the first time, he publicly declared "The Government's job is to help capitalists make money." He moved government/business collusion out of the back rooms and put it right on the table, for all the world to see. Government officials dining in public with business leaders became commonplace. KMT party enterprises boss Liu Tai-ying became the man at the heart of the government/business web. But although the gates to "black gold" had been thrown open, few political appointees had the audacity to set prices for government/business collusion. Still less did they have the audacity to secretly launder billions in illicit or illegal funds overseas. .

During the earlier part of Chen Shui-bian's eight years in office, Chen Shui-bian's template for government/business collusion was Lee Teng-hui. During the latter part of his term, the pupil surpassed the teacher. Government/business collusion has expanded from the first generation of wealthy tycoons, to the second generation. They have expanded from traditional industries to the financial industry and high-tech industries. The son of a category three impoverished household became the godfather of both the government and business realms. The result was, from the Presidential Office, through the Executive Yuan, and on down through the various ministries, Chen regime political appointees set a new record for incidents of corruption. Even he and his own family members have become defendants. A man who was once the president is now in jail. The details of his scandal have been circulated around the world. These shocking instances of government/business collusion have gradually been exposed. Admittedly, Chen Shui-bian victimized those corporate leaders. But weren't those corporate leaders also abetting Chen Shui-bian's crimes?

The Chen family scandal has provided us with an object lesson about government/business collusion. Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen's ugly greed has provided posterity with a cautionary tale. The ROC must move toward clean government. Those who wield power will invariably be tempted, but they may not barter power in exchange for wealth. Conversely, business owners must have the courage to "just say no" to those in authority. They may not exchange wealth for illicit business advantage.

The Chen family corruption case has provided a warning to those in authority, and an object lesson to those in business.

2009.02.17 02:19 am









Monday, February 16, 2009

Do Not Allow CECA to Become an Ideological Struggle

Do Not Allow CECA to Become an Ideological Struggle
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 16, 2009

Six large labor and business organizations recently asked the government to sign a "Comprehensive Cross-Strait Economic and Trade Agreement" (CECA) with Beijing, as soon as possible. National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi and Minister of Economic Affairs Ying Chi-ming responded positively to such suggestions. Since the Beijing and Taipei have few disagreements on this issue, it can probably be incorporated into cross-Strait consultations between SEF and ARATS this year. But DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's immediately response was that it was "inadvisable." Clearly a consensus with the opposition DPP has yet to be reached.

Labor and business organizations' intense desire for CECA is not surprising. In recent years, ASEAN has accelerated the pace of regional integration. Taipei meanwhile, has been excluded. It has been left standing outside the door. On top of which, during the DPP's eight-year rule, not one single neighboring government signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with us. The DPP demagogued political issues, perpetuating cross-Strait political confrontation. The result was a period crucial to economic recovery was squandered on political struggle. This wasted time will be difficult to make up. Much of the KMT's cross-strait consultations after resuming office are in fact an effort to make up for lost time.

An even more pressing issue is the global economic crisis. Everyone knows Taiwan's economic lifeline is exports. This year the sector that shrank the fastest was the export sector. This is why not long ago many foreign institutions were pessimistic about Taiwan's economic performance this year. Taiwan's exports account for over 40% of total cross-Strait trade. The ASEAN plus three countries are gradually moving toward zero trade tariffs. Taipei does not enjoy such privileges. Taiwan's comparative advantage and competitive edge will be lost. This will accelerate its current marginalization, especially given the current situation. Europe and the United States, two major economies, are in serious recession, with no evidence of improvement in the short term. Protectionist sentiment simmers just beneath the surface. Taipei is caught in the middle. In the event Taipei comes up with "heads you win, tails I lose," its plight can be imagined.

When the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry responded to the six labor and business groups, it specifically referred to domestic sentiment in favor of CECA. And yet disagreement persists regarding the name of the agreement, how it is promoted, and its timing. Needless to say, this disagreement comes from the Green Camp. It worries that signing CECA will lead to the loss of "Taiwan's" sovereignty, and economic over-reliance on the mainland. In fact, when President Ma proposed that the two sides sign CECA, his chief concern was the potential diminution of ROC sovereignty. That is why he focused on abolishing cross-strait tariffs, trade and investment barriers, and on further liberalizing the free movement of high tech labor, investment funds, labor services, and merchandise. This gradually brings them in line with WTO norms, and with cross-strait economic and trade cooperation norms. Given Taiwan's past economic and trade flexibility in the global arena, such openness will provide increased opportunities. This will allow Taiwan-based businesses to position themselves in the new era of competitive trade. If they remain bound hand and foot, as they are currently, they will find themselves unable to advance or retreat. Much of Taiwan's current trade is heavily tilted toward the mainland. Over half of this tilt occurred under Democratic Progressive Party rule. Given the high degree of trade dependency, isn't the lack of even the most basic investment and trade agreements a serious problem, and the result of DPP dereliction?

The Ministry of Economic Affairs is not concerned about cross-strait political differences. It is concerned about ruling and opposition party differences. It is concerned particularly that the Democratic Progressive Party will persist in politicizing CECA. No matter how carefully the ruling KMT avoids sovereignty issues, the opposition DPP will sooner or later turn them into ideological issues. It did that last year, during the presidential election, by deliberately relabeling the "Cross-Strait Common Market" the "One China Market." A number of distorted interpretations of CECA have already been floated. If the ruling authorities wish to avoid a senseless debate over reunification vs independence between the ruling and opposition parties, it will have to make a real effort.

If the Democratic Progressive Party opposes CECA, it should not sing the same old ideological tune. Instead, it should offer its most convincing alternative. The public on Taiwan gave the Democratic Progressive Party an eight year opportunity. What did it get in return? East Asian regional economic integration is just around the corner. The global financial crisis has yet to subside. Taiwan's economy, dependent upon on the growth of exports, remains besieged on all sides. Signing CECA is merely one way to break through this seige. Besides, all cases involving tariff agreements must be approved by the Legislative Yuan. At that time all concerns will be addressed. If after all we have endured over the past eight years, we still cannot get past ideological struggles, that will be the real tragedy.

中國時報  2009.02.16







Friday, February 13, 2009

The Chen Family Gives Deep Greens a Slap in the Face

The Chen Family Gives Deep Greens a Slap in the Face
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation 
February 13, 2009

 Wu Shu-chen, accompanied by her newly-recruited legal counsel, re-appeared in court, 788 days after her last appearance. She agreed to a "technical plea of guilty." She did not resort to her usual fainting tactics. For Deep Green Taiwan independence supporters, who did everything in their power to obstruct justice, watching Chen Shui-bian's wife and son plead guilty must have been a bolt out of the blue.

Wu Shu-chen could drag out the process and refuse to appear in court in part because of her physical condition, and in part because her Deep Green legal defense team worked hand in hand with the Chen family to politicize their indictment and spin their prosecution for corruption and money-laundering as "judicial persecution." The defense team's showmanship trumped the prosecution's professionalism. Nevertheless, once Chen Chih-chung and his wife asked for a plea bargain, the result was an internal uprising. Lee Sheng-hsiung and others terminated their client-attorney relationship with Wu Shu-chen. Within one short week, Wu Shu-chen quickly found replacements for all three members of her legal defense team. She decided to plead guilty to some of the charges against her. By then, the ugly face of the Chen family's corruption had been exposed. Do Taiwan independence supporters still wish to maintain that Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen were sacrificial martyrs nailed to the cross for supporting Taiwan Independence?

The stubborn illusions Deep Greens have regarding Chen Shui-bian are incomprehensible, particularly now that the Chen family scandals have been exposed by prosecutors. A bunch of pro-independence lawyers and Deep Green elements persist in white-washing Ah-Bian's crimes. One can only wonder what they are thinking. Lee Sheng-hsiung's statement upon terminating his relationship with the Chen family offers us an insight. He said being Ah-Chen's attorney was in effect, "leading the entire Chen family to the Lord." Chen Chih-chung and Huang Jui-Ching's confession precipitated an internal uprising. He could no longer act as Ah-Chen's attorney. Lee conflated the roles of legal counsel and spiritual advisor. He seemed more interested in abstract faith, to the point of neglecting his client's interests.

For Lee Sheng-hsiung, his role as Taiwan independence elder trumped his role as defense attorney. That may be the ultimate reason he opposed a guilty plea. Only by refusing to acknowlege the legitimacy of secular justice, could he depict criminal prosecution as "political persecution," and maintain the sanctity of Taiwan independence.

The problem with lawyers such as Lee Sheng-hsiung, is that their other roles have compromised their role as defense attorneys. Urging the Chen family to believe in the Lord, and helping the Chen family achieve spiritual tranquility, is noble. But ignoring real world circumstances, to the point of obdurately urging the Chen family not to admit guilt, runs counter to the goal of helping them seek redemption. Besides, defense attorneys have a sworn duty to use the legal tools at their disposal to safeguard the rights and interests of their clients. Advising a defendant not to plead guilty merely because doing so would undermine the attorney's political faith is both dereliction of duty and a violation of professional ethics.

Lee Sheng-hsiung and others could neither advance nor retreat. Their dilemma reflects the dilemma of Deep Green Taiwan independence thought and action. One. As a political movement Taiwan independence must offer a vision to attract followers. But Deep Greens have bet everything the farm on the hopelessly corrupt Ah-Bian. What are they doing, if not asking for trouble? Two. Any movement must constantly engage in soul-searching and fresh thinking in order to clarify its values and reaffirm its goals. But Deep Green Taiwan independence elements want only to deny the legitimacy of the political framework and the justice system. They even want to undermine such universal values as justice, integrity, conscience. In the process, they have merely marginalized themselves. Over the past eight years, "nativist" sentiment has indeed grown. But the Taiwan independence movement has simultaneously withered. One reason is the constraints of reality. Another reason is that Chen Shui-bian overplayed his hand. To continue putting Chen Shui-bian on a pedestal, this late in the game, is self-degradation.

Wu Shu-chen has pleaded guilty to some of the indictments against her. Now that she no longer needs to act out the role of "victim of political persecution," she seems more relaxed. It has now been established that Chen Chih-chung and his wife knew they were involved in money laundering. Wu Shu-chen knew she took money she shouldn't have. She can no longer feign innocence. She has in effect lowered the sacred banner that Taiwan independence elements raised. She has come back down to earth. She will have to pay a price, of course. But at least she can come back down to earth. She can resume the role of wife and mother. She need no longer remain imprisoned within Bao-lai Gardens, on the Deep Green sacrificial altar arranged for her by Taiwan independence elements.

Regardless of how genuine their repentance might be, Chen Chih-chung, Huang Jiu-ching, and Wu Shu-chen have pleaded guilty. At least they have acknowledged they can no longer deny legal responsibilty. By contrast, the blinkered, Deep Green supporters of Taiwan independence who continue to insist that Ah-Bian and Ah-Chen are victims of judicial persecution, are truly lost. They have no idea where their imaginary Nation of Taiwan can be found. Meanwhile, they have forsaken whatever fundamental moral and ethical beliefs they might once have held.

Take the following four values: law, democracy, morality, and religion. Which of these should lawyers value the most? Or, within the dark and endless tunnel that is Taiwan independence, can all of them be discarded?

2009.02.13 02:37 am










The NCC: Helping to Trample Over Press Freedom?

The NCC: Helping to Trample Over Press Freedom?
China Times editorial
A Translation
February 9, 2009

The National Communication Commission (NCC) has just issued a new draft of its satellite radio and television law. National Communication Commission Chairperson Bonnie Peng was the odd person out. She was unable to prevent other members of the commission from passing the new law. All she could do was write a lengthy dissenting opinion.

Chairperson Bonnie Peng's dissent addressed freedom of speech and freedom of press issues. The new satellite radio and television law seems regressive, a throwback to a time when the Government Information Office's word was law. Judging by the revised draft law, current NCC members have a very different view of freedom of expression than previous NCC members. Back then the Grand Justices were concerned that apportioning membership on the NCC based on the political composition of the legislature was harmful to the independence of broadcast industry regulatory agencies. They declared that the establishment of the NCC unconstitutional. Now however, the NCC shares the Executive Yuan's attitude about commission appointments, and the administrative agencies' attitude about regulation. One can only wonder whether the Grand Justices feel a sense of frustration. If the Legislative Yuan passes the bill into law, the Grand Justices should review the law for violating constitutional guarantees of free speech.

Our concerns are hardly unfounded. The revised law contains serious threats to free speech. One. Article 21 authorizes regulatory agencies to rate radio and television programs, in addition to advertising. The slightest mistake on the part of the media, and regulatory agencies can use the rating process as a pretext to censor radio and television program content. A major firewall has already been breached.

Two. The law prohibits the broadcasting of news articles that have not been checked for accuracy. But the broadcasting of real-time radio and television programs can hardly wait while government agencies check the facts. The probable result will be that no news whatsoever can be broadcast. If the regulatory agency establishes its own standards, it could create a situation in which "those who obey may broadcast, but those who don't will be silenced." The chilling effect can easily be imagined.

Three. The law regulates product placement. This may not be a bad thing in itself. But Article II, paragraph 13 defines "product placement" too loosely, as "certain perspectives," and "the dissemination of information." This has far-reaching implications, and allows government agencies to regulate anything, to meddle in anything, and to be everywhere.

Four. The law mandates a so-called "right of reply." It expressly stipulates that "parties concerned" or "parties affected" can demand that the news story be censored or corrected. If the broadcaster refuses to address the matter as requested, the "parties concerned" or "parties affected" may file for an injunction. If the courts fail to understand their duty to defend freedom of speech, they may contribute to the suppression of free expression.

Five. Article 45 of the law stipulates that regulatory agencies may impose heavy fines on news sources who fail to verify the facts. This is a formal declaration that the era of broadcast news censorship, using "fact checking" as a pretext, has arrived. This constitutes control of editorial commentary. Don't think otherwise. Editorial content is based on fact. To demand that news reports must be absolutely true before they can be published, does not control only factual reporting, it also controls editorial commentary. For regulatory agencies to monitor the news means that freedom of the press on Taiwan has taken a giant step backward.

Six. Article 47 of the law authorizes regulatory agencies to inspect all program content and impound it if they see fit. The law originally applied only to advertising, but now news and other programming have are included. Scenes of police impounding contraband publications may soon reappear.

The morass of provisions in the revised law regarding "rights protection" and "penalties," authorizing regulatory agencies to clamp down, makes its intention perfectly clear. Such a comprehensive control mechanism brings back memories of the old Government Information Agency and Information Bureau.

The Criminal Code includes laws against defamation. The Civil Code provides for tort damages. The draft law implies that the court's burden isn't heavy enough already. Even more puzzling is the provision for injunctions, which originate in Anglo-American law, and are a discretionary power reserved for judges. Injunctions should only be handed down by the courts. Regulatory agencies may not abuse their authority clamping down on free expression. The draft law has been added to the court's power to issue injunctions. The NCC has been authorized to impound radio and television programs on its own initiative. The long arm of the state now extends into the electronic media. The courts are not intervening to prevent the government from abusing its power. They are behaving like the government's accomplices. Chairperson Bonnie Peng championed press freedom all her life. No wonder she spent the New Year's holiday writing her dissenting opinion.

If such a draft law passes, Chairperson Bonnie Peng will probably resign. Only such a gesture can express her outrage. For the sake of Bonnie Peng, who knows that the draft law must not pass, For the sake of free speech on Taiwan, individuals of conscience must sound the alarm!

中國時報  2009.02.09












Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Than Mere Legal Maneuveuring

More Than Mere Legal Maneuveuring
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 12, 2009

Wu Shu-chen has chosen to admit partial guilt, or to admit guilt as a legal ploy. Either way observers are nearly unanimous about her legal strategy and underlying motivation. They have pointed out the many ways in which Wu Shu-chen is covering up and contradicting herself. Here we would like to ask a hypothetical question. Suppose Wu Shu-chen's testimony is true. Suppose she really didn't engage in bribery and corruption? Suppose all she did was forge official documents and launder money? Suppose Ah-Bian has been seriously wronged? Suppose the poor man was actually kept in the dark all this time? Suppose he knew nothing? Suppose he should never have been detained? Suppose Wu Shu-chen's account is true? That raises an interesting question. Namely, has this man really been our President for the past eight years? Has this woman really been our First Lady?

Chen's legal defense team has been striving to create an image. According to this image, former President Chen has no standing at all at home. Wu Shu-chen wears the pants in the family. Chen Shui-bian never asks how Ah-Chen budgets their finances, Therefore Chen Shui-bian was in the dark about the receipts from the State Affairs Fund, and campaign contributions by business consortiums. Assuming this is all true, then we have to ask, is this really the kind of person has been governing our nation for the past eight years?

No normal department head of a public institution, no normal chief executive officer of a private corporation, no matter how much he loved his wife, would turn the entire household budget over to his wife to manage. He would certainly not dare put his wife in charge of the budget for the department or company he heads. He would not certainly not dare permit his wife to collect invoices from the wives of subordinates and submit them to his department or company for reimbursement. He would certainly not dare permit his wife to meddle in official departmental or company disputes. He would certainly not take orders from her on how to run the department or company he heads. It is not even necessary to explicitly forbid such conduct, because since time immemorial the line between public and private has never been in doubt.

The First Lady is severely handicapped. Wu Shu-chen must be assisted in all her movements by family members. She is so frail that when issued summons to appear in court, she asked to be excused 17 consecutive times, for reasons of health. Who knew she had the time and energy to intervene in the Nankang Exhibition Hall construction bidding process, and to order the Minister of the Interior to leak the list of review board members? She was not the least bit shy about mediating disputes between wealthy consortiums. She directly intervened in the Lungtan land auction process. If that was not enough, she unblinkingly collected hundreds of millions in "campaign contributions" then transferred them overseas into dummy accounts under her son's name. The prosecution has indicted her on all counts. Wu Shu-chen has admitted to them. Are these things permissible for the First Lady? Can these things be cavalierly rationalized away as "campaign contributions?"

Now let's look at the State Affairs Fund. Whether one wishes to cite the "big reservoir theory," or to attribute the problem to obsolete practices, as long as the expenses are in fact "Presidential Office official expenditures," they can more or less be justified. But by no amount of rationalization can justify putting the First Lady in charge of collecting receipts, or allowing her to fulfill a role akin to Yu Wen's. No amount of rationalization can justify permitting the First Lady to collect invoices from the wives of wealthy cronies for reimbursement, then making them available to former President Chen. If everything was as Wu Shu-chen said, if she did not embezzle even a single dollar, then Chen Shui-bian and Wu Shu-chen owe everyone on Taiwan an explanation. The State Affairs Fund should have been directly remitted to the president for his use. Why did it have to first pass through the president's official residence? No matter how tolerant voters may be of former President Chen's pecadillos, this is one they cannot possibly tolerate.

Let's return to the root of the problem. How could a president who was ostensibly elected by over half the voters, who swore an oath to uphold the constitution, who was endorsed by a political party that trumpets its moral rectitude, sink so low as to allow his wife to assume official functions and exercise official powers. How could he turn the machinery of the State Affairs Fund over to wife? How could he be totally unaware of his own wife's brazen involvement in public works bidding, issuing orders to department heads to leak secrets, and mediating disputes between wealthy consortiums? How could he know nothing about his spouse's laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and jewels all over the world. During his presidency Chen lived under the same roof with her, day after day, for eight years. The public is being asked to believe he was kept in the dark all this time. In fact the ones who were truly kept in the dark are ordinary members of the public.

Wu Shu-chen's testimony must not be dismissed as legal maneuveuring. It must not be dismissed as an effort to help her husband and son evade prosecution. It must not be dismissed as a way to allow Ah-Bian to distance himself from these crimes. Even assuming he could, what would be the point? If the evidence shows Chen Shui-bian was aware of everything that was going on, then he was her chief accomplice. If the evidence shows Chen Shui-bian was completely oblivous to what was happening for the past eight years, then he was an incompetent fool. The only question in the public's mind is, which one of these is the real Chen Shui-bian.

中國時報  2009.02.12