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'Let's end this circus': Chen Shui-bian

'ILLEGAL TRIAL' : The former president's office issued a statement yesterday in which Chen requested that Judge Tsai Shou-hsun hand him a life prison sentence

By Shelley Huang and Ko Shu-ling
Friday, May 08, 2009, Page 1

A supporter of former president Chen Shui-bian cries outside the Taipei District Court after the judge sent Chen back to the Taipei Detention Center in Tucheng, Taipei County, yesterday.



Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who has been detained at the Taipei Detention Center since Dec. 30 on charges of money laundering and corruption, yesterday released a statement requesting that Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) give him a life sentence.

“I will not appeal and my sentence can begin immediately,” Chen’s statement said. “Let’s end this circus.”

Chen’s office issued the statement late yesterday afternoon, which said the former president “rejected the illegal detention, illegal indictment and the illegal trial,” adding that he would immediately dismiss his defense lawyers and revoke the summons of all defense witnesses.

The statement also said he would go on a hunger strike until May 17 to show his support for a demonstration planned by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The statement said he would refuse food until he saw his fellow Taiwanese come together in front of the Presidential Office on May 17 to protest against President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and demand that he protect the nation.

He said as a former president, he stands for Taiwan independence and believes Taiwan and China are separate countries.

“I vow on my life I will never be a slave of China,” he said. “Taiwanese must maintain their dignity and backbone.”

The statement said that Chen did not embezzle any money or commit any crime. He vowed he would never submit to judicial persecution and the political vendetta being waged by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and “administrator Ma.”

Earlier yesterday morning, Chen showed shortness of breath and shook when he appeared in court for his detention hearing.

The hearing yesterday was to decide whether to keep Chen incarcerated. The prosecution requested the court keep the former president detained and cited fears that Chen might collude with witnesses or try to abscond, adding that the charges against him were serious crimes for which a defendant may be sentenced to five or more years in prison.

“As a former president, the defendant [Chen] may have more contacts and a higher ability to abscond than the average person,” prosecutor Lin Yi-chun (林怡君) said.

Because the former first family has wired large amounts of money to offshore accounts, they may try to flee the country and “live luxuriously” overseas, prosecutors said.

“[Chen] being invited back into the Democratic Progressive Party despite his indictment shows that he is a very influential figure,” Lin said.

Prosecutors reasoned that Chen may use his influence to attempt to destroy or tamper with evidence related to the case.

In response, Chen spoke in short breaths and occasionally heaved and coughed.

Chen quoted Special Investigation Panel prosecutors who had said at previous detention hearings that he may be released once they have finished calling all witnesses.

“Although the court has not finished calling the witnesses, the other defendants and key witnesses have all been questioned,” Chen said.

Chou Chan-chun (周占春), the judge who previously presided over Chen’s case, had said that if Chen was to be detained until the court has finished questioning all witnesses, it would infringe on the defendant’s litigation and defense rights, Chen said.

Chen said if he was released, he would not harass or collude with other defendants and witnesses because he knows if he did, he would be detained again.

Chen also cited his deteriorating physical condition, which included heartburn, asthma and arthritis.

“I have a heart condition. My heart aches at night and I have cold sweats, but I dare not talk about it,” he said hoarsely.

He said his lawyer told him that electrocardiography data showed he had problems in four places in his heart, but the detention center hadn’t informed him. At this point, he paused in silence, then sniffled and took out a tissue to wipe his nose.

Tsai gave Chen 30 minutes to speak. When his time was up, he put his head down on the table. Upon seeing this, Tsai asked Chen whether he was feeling unwell, then allowed him to rest in another room.

After Chen left the courtroom, his lawyers continued to speak in his defense and said the court should release him on bail so he could be hospitalized.

After about half an hour, Chen came back into the courtroom with his body shaking and his face pale. He had difficulty walking and had to be escorted by two bailiffs, one on each side. Seeing this, some of Chen’s supporters who had been watching the trial began to cry.

Chen continued to shake until Tsai said he would ask the detention center to keep an eye on his physical condition and adjourned the hearing, ordering that Chen be sent back to the detention center until further notice.

Outside the courthouse, Chen’s office secretary Chiang Chih-ming (江志銘) told reporters that Chen had been suffering from a heart condition, asthma, arthritis, deteriorating eyesight and other illnesses. He said the shaking was probably because of his heart problems and that they had not seen this happen before.

In response, Taipei Detention Center Deputy Director Lee Ta-chu (李大竹) said that the scan that Chen had referred to was performed when he refused to eat last November. Lee said they informed Chen of his results and Chen’s most recent scan last month showed no signs of illness.

After visiting Chen at the detention center later yesterday, Chen’s lawyer Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍) expressed regret over the decision not to grant his request to have Chen hospitalized.

At a separate setting yesterday, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) urged the judiciary to treat Chen in a humane manner and respect his rights.

DPP Legislator Kao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the DPP respected the law and understood the law should not be bent for anyone’s sake, including Chen, “but everyone, even Chen, is entitled to proper judicial rights.”

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華), however, said the court should continue to detain Chen because he might try to steal the thunder of DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) during the party’s planned rally on May 17 if he were released.



Supporters of former president scuffle with police after his detention hearing

By Shelley Huang
Friday, May 08, 2009, Page 3

A scuffle broke out between supporters of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) and police yesterday when a crowd gathered outside the Taipei District Court to protest the continued detention of the former president.

Chen yesterday attended a hearing on whether his detention should be continued.

Near the end of the hearing, some of the supporters who had been watching the court proceedings shouted and stood up to get a better look at the former president, who appeared weak and ill.

Bailiffs asked the supporters to sit down and remain quiet, but to no avail.

Chen’s supporters heckled Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓), shouting: “You should have a conscience!”

A couple of the supporters were then escorted out by bailiffs.

Outside the courthouse, demonstrators wearing green baseball caps and shirts with “Bian support union” written on them protested the court’s continued detention of the former leader.

Shouting phrases such as “Tsai Shou-hsun is a judicial executioner” and “Tsai Shou-hsun wants him dead,” dozens of the protesters surrounded the Taipei District Court.

They carried signs that said: “Everyone is equal before the law,” “Justice is not served, human rights is dead” and “Release A-bian, hold fair trials.”

After Chen’s hearing ended at 11:10am, those who had been in court walked out to join the rest of the demonstrators.

A line of police carrying shields stood between demonstrators and the courthouse.

Some demonstrators and members of the police argued and shouted profanities at each other, while small clusters of demonstrators and police shoved each other around the courthouse.

The demonstration settled down after about an hour with no injuries reported.

When former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) appeared at court in the afternoon in a trial involving alleged kickbacks in a government land deal, she said she was very concerned about Chen’s health.

“He has symptoms of heart disease,” she told reporters. “I hope the judge will release him.”

Chen has been detained for a total of more than five months on corruption and embezzlement charges.

He has denied the accusations, saying the trials are politically motivated and that his detention is a violation of human rights.





Engagement is not changing China

Friday, May 08, 2009, Page 8

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has said several times that he believes Taiwan’s democracy can act as a positive example for China and that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) will only consider unification if and when Beijing embraces universal suffrage.

Ma’s theory is not unique. It is almost identical to that of the US government, which for many years has trumpeted its policy of engagement with Beijing as a way of changing China’s authoritarian system, leading to its eventual democratization.

But were it to be ranked on its effectiveness so far, the US policy would most definitely receive a failing grade.

Thirty years of foreign investment-fueled economic growth has only succeeded in strengthening the position of China’s leaders, making them more belligerent, while democracy seems further away now than at any point since the Cultural Revolution.

The utter failure of the US’ policy was apparent during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s February visit to Beijing, when she said issues such as human rights couldn’t be allowed to “interfere” with the tackling of economic problems.

Clinton’s reluctance to bring up issues unpalatable to Chinese leaders seems to indicate that instead of changing China, engagement has produced the opposite effect.

With its growing economic clout, China now has the ability to influence those who choose to have closer ties with it — including the world’s sole remaining superpower.

This is a lesson that people in Taiwan are only now beginning to learn.

The latest apparent sign of this phenomenon came earlier this week when Chinese dissident Ji Xiaofeng (紀曉峰) accused Taiwanese intelligence agencies — in behavior reminiscent of their Chinese counterparts — of collecting information on Xinjiang and Tibet independence activists with a view to preventing them from entering Taiwan.

The report was rebutted by the agencies concerned, but it would be foolish to assume that the Ma government is incapable of such behavior given its track record — and political agenda.

The effects of Ma’s policy of snuggling up to China were brought into sharp focus in December by his rejection of a possible visit to Taiwan by the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, something he had welcomed just nine months earlier.

This came just a month after November’s visit by Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), during which police confiscated national flags and used violence against unarmed protesters.

Add to that news that Taiwan is no longer ranked as Asia’s freest press: The US-based Freedom House’s recent annual freedom of the press survey saw Taiwan’s ranking slip 11 spots to 43rd place from last year, which makes it clear which side of the Taiwan Strait is having the bigger effect on the other.

If a country as powerful as the US has, to all intents and purposes, admitted defeat in its attempts to influence China, it does not take a genius to work out what the consequences will be for Taiwan with the Ma administration’s accelerating rapprochement.



Democratic dictatorship taking root in Taiwan

By Hsu Yung-ming 徐永明
Friday, May 08, 2009, Page 8

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) presidency can best be described as a “democratic dictatorship” in that he often refers to the votes he garnered during last year’s election when claiming public support for his presidency.

Although it’s been nearly a year since the election, Ma still uses this approach as an endorsement of his policies and an affirmation of his political credibility, ignoring the fact that the election of a president and support for his administration are two entirely different issues.

Ma interprets the ballots cast in the presidential election as a blank check to be used as he sees fit — and even as an excuse to suppress public opinion.

This is clear evidence that in his view of democracy, an actively participating citizenry should be replaced by a passive group of voters that can only express their view on voting day, and that he should act as their representative at all other times.

All expression of public opinion on issues such as political credibility, sunshine legislation or cross-strait relations are restricted because in Ma’s mind, the public consists of voters and not citizens, democracy only exists on election day and total vote numbers replace expressions of public opinion.

This also explains why Ma is so dismissive of referendum democracy and why calls for the abolition of the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) has been embroiled in dispute.

The idea of citizens expressing their views through street demonstrations or criticizing the government has become unacceptable in the president’s view. Democracy is reduced to the act of voting, while all other issues should be dealt with by the elite, and the president in particular.

The most obvious manipulation of the democratic process can be seen in the merging and elevated administrative status of Kaohsiung, Taichung and Taipei counties and cities, leading to suspicions that the local elections at the end of this year will be politically manipulated.

The greatest contribution of elections to democracy is the uncertainty about the popular choice, which implies that there will never be a perennial winner because the outcome is decided by a public that may change its mind at any time.

The biggest crisis facing Taiwan’s elections is this uncertainty may not be the result of the elite competing for public support, but instead a result of manipulation of the rules — be it by a single party or even just a single person.

If the rules of the game are not accepted by all participating parties, fair elections — the source of democratic legitimacy and consolidation — will deteriorate into manipulated elections, resulting in genuine democracy taking a step backward.

This all means that democratic elections are not necessarily a guarantee of freedom, something that is difficult to understand from the historically linear relationship between freedom and democracy which ignores the darker aspects of democratic elections.

Fareed Zakaria’s popular work — The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad — which was published in 2004, discusses the universality of the view that freedom is guaranteed by democracy based on the view that there is a balance between democracy and freedom.

In doing so, it also explains how Ma’s government is establishing a democratic dictatorship in Taiwan.

Hsu Yung-ming is an assistant professor in the department of political science at Soochow University.

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