Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rule of law or rule by law?

The Ma Ying-jeou administration is sounding more and more like Beijing as it tries to defend a series of moves by the judiciary targeting officials from the main opposition party

Facing another round of criticism by academics over the weekend about fears of abuse of power, the Presidential Office again responded by maintaining that Taiwan was a country of law and order, and that the authorities were only following the law.

The matter in question, which involves allegations that 17 senior officials in former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration failed to return as many as 36,000 documents — several of them classified — seemed untoward from the beginning, coming as it did almost three years after the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) return to power and as the campaign for next year’s presidential election began to shift into gear.

Some of the DPP officials targeted include former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), a man with impeccable political credentials, as well as former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), who is one of the three candidates in the DPP presidential primary.

While some could dismiss the timing as mere happenstance, the explanation collapses when it is taken in the context of the Presidential Office’s reaction to the criticism.

“Taiwan is a country of law and order,” Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) was quoted as saying by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) yesterday.

What Lo fails to tell us is whether he means rule of law or rule by law, a seemingly minute nuance that, in countries with a history of authoritarian rule, can make a world of a difference. Indeed, if we think about it, Lo’s explanation means nothing whatsoever.

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

1 comment:

FOARP said...

I don't know why the Taiwan blogs like to bandy about the idea of "rule by law" as if the use of laws by governments to excuse their actions in this day and age needs explanation. There is rule of law, and there is its absence, there is no need to introduce a third element.