Friday, February 18, 2011

Wu Shu-chen's Prison Term Should Balance Justice and Humanitarianism

Wu Shu-chen's Prison Term Should Balance Justice and Humanitarianism
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 18, 2011

Today, Wu Shu-chen will report to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office. She will then be sent to the Taichung Prison Annex Hospital for testing and evaluation. The results will determine whether she will be put behind bars. Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu said every step along the way would accord with the professional judgment of physicians. The DPP has argued that Wu Shu-cheng is unable to care for herself. Therefore they oppose having her serve. Green Camp elected representatives and local community leaders plan to stage protests.

Compared to Chen Shui-bian, Wu Shu-cheng's physical disability does make her prison term a more prickly issue. Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng's sentences were handed down at the same time, last November. Chen Shui-bian has already been in prison two and half months. Wu Shu-cheng spent New Years, Chinese New Years, and the Lantern Festival at home. Only now has she been referred to the hospital for evaluation. As we can see, the Ministry of Justice has given her special treatment due to humanitarian considerations. Yet the Green Camp persists in its attacks. They have accused the Ma administration of "using the system to kill people." On the other hand, many others are waiting to see whether the Ma government will buckle under pressure, and whether it will use Wu Shu-chen's health as an excuse to let her escape justice.

Justice, humanitarianism, and politics are engaged in a three way tug of war. In fact, the problem is not confined to the Ma administration. It also reflects the DPP's inability to examine its own conscience when confronted by Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng's corruption. Democracy on Taiwan has a malignant tumor. Normally speaking, anyone who commited the same offense as Wu Shu-chen, would be forced to serve a prison sentence. The prison system has long established evaluation criteria. The system has been in existence for many years. It has never run into any real problems. Now, in order to pander to Wu Shu-chen, the DPP is demanding that the system change its standards, It is demanding that the government custom tailor her prison sentence, in accorance with her individual requirements. This is hardly consistent with the concept of equal justice under the law.

Medical and humanitarian factors must be considered. Whether Wu Shu-chen is fit to serve time, requires careful medical evaluation. It also requires adequate prison facilities. If anything untoward were to happen in prison, the Ma administration would bear the brunt of any responsibility. Meanwhile, the DPP refuses to wait for the hospital assessment. It repeatedly asserts that Wu Shu-chen is "unfit to serve a prison term." It repeatedly accuses the Ma government of "politics before the law." In fact, the purpose of the DPP's moves are precisely that -- "politics before the law." In fact, the purpose of the DPP's moves is to exert political pressure on the administration of justice.

The political atmosphere is grave. The Ministry of Justice may stick to its self-proclaimed "non-intervention, non-interference, non-guidance" and "three noes." But PTC hospital physicians must conduct an assessment. Can they truly not be affected, psychologically and emotionally? Mobs outside the hospital raged. Can the physicians truly maintain their professionalism and objectivity? Can their assessment truly remain free from political influence? Suppose they make a clearly worded assessment? Regardless of whether Wu Shu-chen may or may not be required to serve time behind bars, can they truly avoid harassment by either Blue or Green camp supporters?

According to records, last year the PTC ruled that four convicts need not serve time. The Ministry of Justice has had over 500 such cases over the years. DPP legislators "reason" that so many "ordinary people" have not be required to serve time. Therefore why should Wu Shu-cheng? Their "reasoning" contains three fallacies. One. It reveals imperial arrogance. If the prince and the pauper commit the same crime, they must be treated the same under the law, Wu Shu-cheng must undergo the same testing and treatment as other prisoners. She cannot claim exemption on the basis of her status as "former first lady." Two. It inverts cause and effect. The other prisoners were assessed by physicians. Only then were they exempted, on medical grounds. They were not exempted before hand, before medical assessment. Many of them merely received temporary reprieves. Once their physical condition improved, they were forced to serve out their sentences. Three. It makes hypocritical appeals to "humanitarianism." Today's prisons are filled with sick people. Many convicts enter prison while sick. The DPP has never cared a whit for any of them. It blindly supports Wu Shu-cheng alone. What is the DPP's selective humanitarianism, except flagrant hypocrisy?

Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng's corruption scandals came to light. Political turmoil followed. The Red Shirts took to the streets and demanded justice. Now, Chen Shui-bian has finally entered prison. Democracy and justice on Taiwan have take a giant leap forward. But many more of Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng's corruption cases have yet to be tried. Whether Wu Shu-cheng must serve out her sentence, how the money she and Ah-Bian stole will be recovered, are all pieces of this unfinished puzzle. We hope that the Blue and Green camps will both take a step back. We hope they will give the physicians a chance to assess Wu Shu-Cheng's physical condition according to professional medical standards. These physicians must ignore Wu Shu-chen's status as "former first lady." They must treat her as an ordinary person. Ultimately, they must explain their decision to the public on the basis of scientific data. Their decision must reflect the demands of justice and humanitarianism, and not political pressure. Only such an approach can win the public trust.

In short, the assessment of Wu Shu-chen's health must be based on justice and humanitarianism. If political pressures are involved, the result will be a lie. Something untoward could happen to Wu Shu-chen while she serves out her prison sentence. She could then use her medical assessment as a shield, as an excuse to refuse to appear in court, or to do whatever she wants. This is not something the public would like to see. The physicians performing the assessment must exercise extreme caution.

2011.02.18 03:07 am









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