Political Backlash – The AhBien Story


As many people, even those who may not know about Taiwan, are aware President Chen Shui-Bian (ahBien) was arrested at the end of his second presidential term. In Taiwan, the source of information or updates on these proceedings has only been the politically controlled media. These media sources have been reporting rumor and third fourth and fifth hand information presented as facts. The inaccuracies have spread so far as to hinder prosecution attempts at information gathering by following hearsay from media sources.

There have been some global calls for accountability in the accuracy and humanity of the handling of this case. In some small response to this pressure recently there was a NYU University dialogue focusing on the trial of Chen Shui-bian. Thank you to NYU for opening this dialogue and posting it on YouTube. It is a long drawn out recap of the conclusions of the AhBien investigation without actually covering the conclusions of the investigation made superficial by the Taiwanese cultural need to save face. However, some very useful information can be gathered from the dialog and its well worth your time to watch considering I don’t have the time to respond to 1/12th of the issues raised here. I have linked the video below.

My Favorite Quotes

Video 1 approx: 1:05:45 Wang Jaw-Perng 國立台灣大學

“The trial of Chens case was independent, although I believe the judge was very bias and Chen did not get a fair trail.”

Video 1 approx:00:33:10 Nigel Li, Esq. 理律法律事務所

“Actually judicial independence or another notion, which is highly related in this case that is another constitutional principle… assumption of innocence. These two basic principles are also novel ideals to the legal culture of the young democracy in Taiwan….”

The trail of ahBien leaves one shrouded in mystery, specifically “What are the facts in the case?”. Unfortunately details of any evidence against ahBien do not come out in this dialogue, however there was an uncontested comment that all evidence against ahBien for extortion and money laundering is circumstantial. In Taiwan acceptance of evidence is the decision of the 3 judge panel, and they can decide if hearsay is admissible.  The additional fact that the maximum time any detainee can be held incommunicado is 2 months with the possibility of a single 2 month extension seems to ignore the fact that ahBien has been held from 2008 until now (2010/06/17). However as we know on the ground, as the time for this deadline draws nearer additional charges are brought against ahBien effectively resetting this 4 month limit. You may also find it interesting that the detention holding cell is 2.5 square meters, and a single 30 min exclusion from this cell is permitted daily. Another important fact of this case is better summed up by another quote from this video.

Video 1 approx: 1:04:30 Wang Jaw-Perng

“Judge B [the judge] was very active and very inquisitorial sometimes he was more aggressive than prosecutors in conducting the trial. In several occasions we can see this judge b [the judge] interrogated the defense witnesses for up to two hours”… “I think he did a good job for the prosecutors, this judge b [the judge] also a lot of times on many occasions he yelled at defense lawyers and yell at defendants he even sometimes mocked defense lawyers and defendants. So to protest the unfairness of judges and judiciary Chen [ahBien] dismissed all of his three defense lawyers and had several hunger strikes in the detention house.”

What happened to ahBien? A man who was able to win presidential election for two terms. A man who was considered a man of the people. Where are the people of his political campaign, his supporters and party? A man, who, as the dust is settling, only has two charges against him (the others have been dropped) and both are by circumstantial evidence. A man who was sentenced to life in prison, although that sentence has now been reduced to 20 years it is still a sentence far beyond any remedy found in the Taiwan legal code. A man who one month was the most powerful man in Taiwan and the next month was locked in a cell smaller than most bathrooms. Well for that answer we need to go to his people and ask.

In my conversations with party members I have attempted to find the source of this lack of support for ahBien. Initially I had began to suspect that many people had started to believe the media propaganda, and while this is true it is not so much the case with his party members. After the fall of ahBien a widespread ‘anti-corruption’ movement plagued Taiwan. Many people in office including several mayors found themselves under investigation and even incarcerated in the suspicion of mismanagement of slush funds. Interestingly enough, some of the accusations spread to those of the KMT party, but not one KMT political leader has been successfully prosecuted. In addition many ahBien supporters were drawn into the charges associated with those currently beimg held against Chen Sui-Bian. “Now is not the climate to be an ahBien supporter” said one party member and he is not the only one to express this sentiment. Many people however have expressed frustration and even anger at ahBien. One persons comments seemed to incorporate many other comments I have heard. “Chen Shui Bien had everything. We gave him 8 years to make changes to Taiwan. We supported him with large amounts of money. He was told the first thing that he should do is kill [not literally] the opposition. But now we find out he [ahBien] has enough money, and did not use that to support the party[DPP]. He was supposed to make Taiwan more better, but what has he done? He didn’t change the legal system, he didn’t use the chance to remove the opposition, he didn’t do anything that was needed. He deserves what he gets.” While the person went on to clarify that ahBien didn’t truly deserve everything that has happened, that person is unwilling to give ahBien any more support.

Unfortunately, it seems that the backlash of Chen Shui-Bians lack of monetary accountability and desire to leave the past behind when he stepped into office has given him a very harsh lesson in reality. Although, I would hope that in the spirit of human rights and concern for the legal system more Taiwanese would support not ahBien, but the legal decisions applicable to his case that have further reaching party implications in the future.

Part 1

Part 2

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About truthintaiwan
I am a professional working in Taiwan. Unfortunately I am unwilling to disclose my identity for my protection. I only assure you that I am not here teaching English and I have been here for a while.

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