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



Another Sad Day for Gender Equality in Taiwan

I have learned many lessons from assuming that news reported in Taiwan was true. However, this story points out a fundamental logic flaw in the way people respond to situations. The only reason I bring it up is gender equality in Taiwan is so massively unbalanced already.

Source: Taipei Times

Train cars set aside for females

PROJECT EAGLE EYE: The railway police bureau has launched a project to establish a database on sex offenders with a record of sexual violence on TRA trains and stations

By Shelley Shan
Saturday, May 29, 2010, Page 2

The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) yesterday said it would launch a female-designated passenger car service after a high school student was allegedly sexually assaulted by a male passenger on Wednesday morning.

TRA deputy director-general Chang Ying-huei (翴錭靟) said an investigation showed that the student boarded the Fuhsing-class train in Pingtung at 5:17am, adding that the train was headed to 〝Fangliao (蛦翋) and supposed to stop at every station along the way.

The student sat in the fourth car, said Chang. The train conductor also reported that he saw two passengers in the car.

※She indicated in her deposition to the police that the male passenger sexually assaulted her when the train passed through Jiadong (呏婘) at 6:26am,§ Chang said.

※The train arrived in Fangliao at 6:37am. The incident occurred during those 11 minutes,§ he said.

In response to a spate of recent incidents, Chang said the TRA plans to launch a female-〝designated passenger car service on 256 commuter trains that depart before 7am and after 9:30pm. He said the first car of the trains with this service would be designated for the use of women and girls.

The TRA also undertook to ensure that all stations are equipped with off-peak waiting areas for female passengers, Chang said.

※The on-board broadcast system will inform women passengers that they can sit in the first car if they are concerned about safety,§ Chang said.

He said passengers would hear the new broadcast for the first time tomorrow.

While the TRA will encourage women passengers to use the first car, Chang said it would not be possible to ban male passengers from using the first car if they chose to do so.

※We are trying to address safety issues that may arise when a woman passenger is alone … As a public transportation system, we serve both male and female customers,§ Chang said. ※We are not calling it a women-only passenger car to avoid discriminating against men.§

The Railway Police Bureau currently has 623 police officers with about 30 responsible for security on long-distance trains.

Short-distance trains are policed by officers stationed in the bureau*s branches nationwide, Railway Police Bureau (RPB) Deputy Director Fang Chien-fei (蛦坳獂) said.

At present, 188 officers police the high-speed rail system, while the remainder are assigned to TRA trains, he said.

Fang also said the bureau plans to deploy more personnel to enhance passenger safety.

Meanwhile, the RPB launched ※Project Eagle Eye§ to establish a database on individuals with records of sexual harassment or assault on TRA trains and stations.

Initially it all sounds great. A crime was committed, and not only did they catch the person who did it, but the railway is going to do something to help stop this from happening in the future.

Lets forget the insanity about a department to track sex offenders in the railway. If you want excuses why this is a complete failure just do a search for ‘US sex offender tracking’ in Google to see the biggest failure since the US declaration of the war against drugs.

Lets spend a minute and talk about sensitization. A great example of sensitization is nudity, because it has some relation to this story. Many cultures do not allow nudity in advertising whatsoever. In talking with foreigners who have just arrived in Taiwan, I find it very common that they are surprised, shocked and even sexually aroused to all of the nudity in advertising here. While in the last 10 years this has reduced (especially in the last 5 years), it is still a lot more liberal than many people are accustomed. However, after seeing these images day after day people become desensitized (meaning that it no longer surprises, shocks and/or sexually arouses them). You sensitize people by keeping them away from things and desensitize them by exposing them to things. That’s the very basic concept without covering psychology 101. Another example of sensitization could be Rosa Parks. A famous person commonly referred to as a civil rights activist, who refused to sit in the back of a bus (like she was supposed to). If you don’t understand the reference, you can read all about it in Wikipedia.

What we are talking about is the suggestion that making a car specifically for women will help protect them. This is just one more sensitization to the issue of women being afraid of attack. Now lets face it, there are real dangers out there, and i am not saying that people should not protect themselves. Lets focus on education in the ways that they can protect themselves. Lets not create a fear based environment for people to live in.

China Post urges respect of foreign workers

If there is one thing I can always depend on, its being able to open China Post for at least 30 minutes of rage at the articles in one of the few English sources of news in Taiwan. Following is an article that I fully expected to agree with. For clearification, I have changed the color of my ranting to easily distinguish my opinion with their ‘article’.

People urged to respect foreign workers, spouses

TAIPEI, Taiwan — People in Taiwan should respect and embrace foreign workers and spouses, urged an editorial of the China Times yesterday.

A Taiwanese employer made international headlines for forcing Muslim workers from Indonesia to eat pork. The news, which drew Jakarta’s condemnation, has really tarnished Taiwan’s image.Clarification, there are two issues that the author thinks are not good for Taiwan face. This is the first issue.
Meanwhile Education Minister Wu Ching-ji told the Legislative Yuan that Chinese students who are allowed to study in Taiwan will be “repatriated” if they marry local citizens because it would not comply with their purpose for visiting Taiwan. This is issue 2. Restated, if a Chinese person comes to University in Taiwan and gets married to a Taiwanese they should be sent back to China because their reason to be here is study not marriage. He tried later to soften his stance, but he had already unwittingly damaged the country’s image by referring to “repatriation,” which has negative connotations, said the editorial.Yes, that’s right. The only problem with what he said is repatriation. It has nothing to do with the fact people from other countries can do the same thing without a problem.

The employer who forced her Moslem -Ooops we mis-spelled it. I’m not perfect either. But if i had an editor and a proofreader, I hope I would do better. workers to eat pork has been indicted by prosecutors, which is the remedy and protection provided by the law. The employer was also reprimanded in the court of public opinion, which saw a majority of people disapprove of her behavior. Lets clarify, the person who forced Muslims to eat pork against their will by threat of their job was told… don’t do that.
The two incidents should not be considered isolated cases. Rather, they betray a mind-set common to many locals. This is very true. The government’s policy of allowing Chinese students to study here was stonewalled in the legislature because of concerns that they could compete with local people for social resources and jobs, and are therefore a threat. But we forgot to mention that Taiwan does not allow Chinese to live and work in Taiwan unless they marry for any reason. So the only way these people could take away resources and jobs is if the Chinese did a better job by taking that knowledge back home with them.
In order to win over the skeptics’ support, the government imposed many restrictions on the policy, which has caused anxiety among the presidents of many leading universities.
“We wonder whether the country will still be worthy of the name of democracy if it goes as far as banning marriages between Chinese students and local people,” said the editorial.Well, if the people all voted for that and/or it appropriately reflected public sentiment and went through due process how is this de-valuing democracy? These are really the opinions of the professors? Maybe you shouldn’t fear the Chinese learning too much from Taiwan.
Many local activists have spoken of abuse or bad treatment of foreign workers in Taiwan and encouraged public discussion of the issue by recording the stories in various books. A bestseller in Thailand is a novel based on a Thai worker’s sufferings in Taiwan.Wow imagine that… People were abused in Taiwan and after having made it out of here alive and unmarried they wrote about their experiences.
Taiwanese readers would feel uneasy to find that their country is portrayed in the novel as a hell for many foreign workers. It is one kind of hell for white collar workers and another kind of imprisoned hell for blue collar workers. Most people consider being forced to work for undefined amounts of money to no money against their will as slavery.
The increasing volume of scholarly studies, books and discussions relating to foreign workers and foreign spouses demonstrate that they are part of our society and cannot be ignored. As a country made up of immigrants, Taiwan should open its arms and minds to foreigners and make them part of “us.” Hang on… somehow I missed how the ostracism, slavery, forced sex trade, intentional sensitization of children to people who are different, prejudices and generally bad attitude can be interpreted as ignoring the issues.

Well, this had a direct bearing on some other recent posts. Next time I will try to post a really inflammatory issue from China Post.

Zain Dean – Guilty until proven innocent

If you know anything about anything in Taiwan in the past month… news images and repeated video coverage of the sinful foreigner who killed (or not) a person in a hit and run accident is the newest of many stories run with anti foreigner sentiment. In this lovely example we got to watch live video footage of a foreign suspect being beaten (while in police custody) by a mob of citizens at a court appearance. Needless to say little footage is shown of his significant other (who is absolutely innocent) also being beaten. There are too many sites covering the “is he guilty or not” debate, but why are we not paying attention to the way foreigners are being treated by the media, legal system and community.

In my humble opinion (or ego inflated whichever way you want to slice it), being an expat is a responsibility. It is a responsibility to help represent our nation (whichever that may be) in a foreign country. And with that should come an awareness of what is happening in the environment around us. If we are being suppressed and beaten into a corner we need to defend ourselves, and if we are exploiting others we need to stick up for the Taiwanese.

We have no support from the British Council or the AIT, as their unofficial status here is to make arms deals and issue passports. Diplomatic relations are not recognized, and honestly having met many in the diplomatic corp here, find even cases they want more involvement in – they dont have many resources in which to do it.

Education and communication are key, and beyond the warm Ni How smile is a cold core that quite frequently believes that all foreigners have Aids, or are here to fuck the women with their big penises, or are trying to threaten their jobs, or are low class laborers. Ask around and you may just be shocked by some of the assumptions Taiwanese have of foreigners.