Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Chen’s ghost returns to haunt Ma

The Ma administration reacts to a decision by the judiciary in a manner that, in its disdain for the law, is oddly reminiscent of the Chinese leadership 

Ever since he was taken into custody in December 2008, the Presidential Office has made sure that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) — the nation’s top “troublemaker,” if we believe the propaganda — did not make waves. It did so via a complicit judiciary that time and again denied the former president his freedom by using tenuous claims to justify extensions to his detention, which now approaches 700 days.

Although Chen managed to publish a few books and articles from prison, the government’s efforts to erase him from the political scene were largely successful, an accomplishment that, admittedly, was compounded by a decision by the Democratic Progressive Party — the party Chen once led — to distance itself from him as it sought to reconsolidate after difficult years. By neutralizing the otherwise ostentatious former president, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration paved the way for its controversial rapprochement with Beijing, which, had he been a free man, Chen would surely have relentlessly attacked publicly.

That was until the Taipei District Court on Friday said it had found no evidence proving that Chen and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), were guilty of corruption and money laundering in a bank merger deal. No sooner had the decision been made than Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) cried foul, prompting officials — with the president in the lead — to sound worryingly like their counterparts across the Taiwan Strait, where, as Richard McGregor writes in The Party, his study of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), “judges must remain loyal — in order — to the Party, the state, the masses and, finally, the law.”

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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