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Happy New Year, Chen Shui-Bian?

As the Chinese New Year approaches, I think I should write some lighter posts.  So here is something funny I stumbled across on WSJ’s China Realtime Report:

With the Lunar New Year approaching, Chinese from the around the world are hoping to head home and spend time with their family. That’s true even of Taiwan’s former president, Chen Shui-bian, even though he’s in jail on charges of embezzling state funds.

So Chen has started a letter-writing campaign asking the public to lobby his successor, Ma Ying-jeou, for a chance to go home. Chen, who was Taiwan’s president from 2000 to 2008, has been imprisoned since November 2008 and was officially sentenced to life in prison on charges of corruption last September.

Chen is still appealing his sentence, which means that under Taiwanese law he is eligible for parole until the appeal is heard. But so far, the court has kept him in prison on the grounds that his crimes are serious, reasoning that he might tamper with evidence and could try to escape.

So far, there’s no sign of mass support for Chen’s campaign, but his office says it has received quite a few positive responses. Chen remains popular among Taiwan’s pro-independence groups.

Some human-rights watch groups have raised concerns about the Taiwan government’s handling of Chen’s case. They say that the prosecution’s case against Chen and his family members might be politically motivated.

Cheng Wen-lung, Chen’s lawyer, said the campaign might not work, “but not trying means no chance at all.” The lawyer added that Chen’s legal team has applied for his release eight times.

The Presidential Office’s spokesman did not return calls for comment.

So far the prospects for parole don’t appear good. On Wednesday, the day after Chen’s office initiated the campaign, Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-jen, was sentenced to nine months in prison for abetting false testimony. Chen’s son Chen Chih-chung, his daughter Chen Hsing-yu and son-in-law Chao Chien-ming also each received a three-month sentence for giving false testimony.

So it looks like Chen wants to be home for the holidays.

Chen’s lawyers have actually made appeals for some kind of parole many times already, but each time it has been denied. So Chen now wants to organize a letter writing campaign to apply some political pressure for his release.

Does Chen deserve to be home for the holidays?  Should Ma show some mercy on KMT’s former political foe?

My advice to Ma is no.  Don’t do anything so foolish.  Let the judicial process take its course.  Taiwanese politics is polarized enough the way it is.  To politically interfere so crudely in such a sensitive judiciary process would not bring anyone any good.  To do so helping a convicted crook like Chen would be suicidal to your political career.

Ma, I know your approval rating has been abysmally low.  But when even Rock Star President Obama is having trouble with approval ratings, you should take some heart. Hurricanes, the economy, beef imports all have taken their toll. But things should be turning around soon. With a free trade agreement with Mainland on the table, and signs that the U.S. economy is turning the corner, there should be much to look forward to in the coming new year.

The coming year is the year of the Tiger, an animal endowed with vigor and power. Let’s toast that the coming year will bring re-invigoration and prosperity to people on both sides of the strait!

As for Chen? I wish him good health and good life, too – so long as he does not use illicit or underhanded means to bring more pain and hurt to the people of Taiwan.

  1. Raj
    February 8th, 2010 at 08:15 | #1

    Should Ma show some mercy on KMT’s former political foe?

    Allen, if you’re indicating that it is the government that is deciding whether Chen is in jail or not pending the hearing of his appeal it bodes badly for Taiwanese liberty. Only the judiciary, without political pressure, should make that decision.

    Should he be bailed? Depends where you’re coming from. In terms of having a fair trial Jerome Cohen, Ma’s own teacher at Harvard and an American cheerleader for Ma before the election, has said he should because without it he can’t form a proper appeal.

    Politically it would actually be in Ma’s own interest to see Chen bailed as he only causes trouble for the DPP. Since he has been in jail he has mostly been quiet and actually let them get on with their job – criticising the KMT and challenging them at elections.

    When you refer to Chen as the KMT’s former political foe, you touch upon the reason they hate him so much. They don’t care about his supposed crimes as many in the KMT are just as corrupt. In their eyes his “crime” is beating them twice in the presidential elections, which he needs to be punished for. However, in allowing their hatred of Chen to control them the KMT have given their opponents time to get their act together.

    Ma, I know your approval rating has been abysmally low. But when even Rock Star President Obama is having trouble with approval ratings, you should take some heart.

    Yes, but why have Obama’s ratings dipped? Because he was initially over-hyped and has had a number of his own problems, like health care reform. Yet he is still a net-asset for the Democrats.

    On the other hand Ma is dragging the KMT down, and his problems are mostly of his own doing. He wasn’t criticised for the hurricane, he was criticised for the response. It was also he that negotiated the US beef deal without properly considering the reaction in the Taiwanese public. But that’s classic dictatorial KMT behaviour – impose a decision on the populace, assuming they won’t object.

    Also Obama does not have anyone pulling his strings, whereas the public in Taiwan increasingly do not know who is in charge – Ma or the KMT bigwigs.

  2. hainan88
    February 8th, 2010 at 11:57 | #2

    raj, so angry to read ur viewpoint. we chinese have enough of u westerners trying to tell us what is good for us, “democracy”, “universal rights”, “rule of law”… 30 years of success is not enough for the west, they will always try to stop and split us, but we stand against it. unfortunately taiwan is still in west’s hands.

    i think ma might be a good “president” of taiwan province, but he has accepted weapons from the west, so maybe he is the same traitor as chen. if he makes decision to keep chen imprisoned, he will have done a right thing. otherwise he will be a scoundrel of history and he has hurt the chinese nation.

  3. Raj
    February 8th, 2010 at 12:07 | #3

    hainan88

    The author, Allen, asked for comments/opinions – I put mine forward. If you’re new to the blog, have a look at the conduct rules below.

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2009/06/01/call-for-comments-on-the-code-of-conduct-at-fools-mountain/

    I draw your attention to the first principle. Everyone is welcome to express their views – you, me, Allen, everyone. So please do not say who has a right to comment or not.

    Taiwan is in no one’s hands other than those of the Taiwanese people.

    Well, maybe China should punish Ma and Taiwan for buying them? That would be the easiest way to stop the arms being bought.

  4. raffiaflower
    February 8th, 2010 at 17:07 | #4

    Obama does not have anyone pulling his strings??? oh, pleee..ase. Read Wesley Tarpley (think that’s the correct spelling) unauthorized biography of America’s first president from the land of aloha.
    Of course you’d probably say, oh, his enemies got this book out to try and tank his chances (was around or before the election i think). But there’s never smoke without some fire.
    america is an oligarchic-plutocracy and the man with his hand on the buttons owes favours to the big guys who put him there.

  5. Charles Liu
    February 8th, 2010 at 18:04 | #5

    Allen, eligable doesn’t mean automatic approval. Also isn’t it the case in our judicial system that convicted fellons ususally serve the sentence while “proper appeal” is under way? If that’s good enough for Americans, why shouldn’t it be good enough for Chen? I mean the bank vults were not fill of politics, but stolen money.

    For example last 2-3 year there were news of black men wrongly convicted of rape were freed after decades of incarseration, when newly available DNA test exhonorated them on appeal. Not one of them were paroled during the appeal.

  6. Raj
    February 8th, 2010 at 20:35 | #6

    Charles

    If that’s good enough for Americans, why shouldn’t it be good enough for Chen?

    Because Taiwan has its own political system and the people that usually don’t get bailed are charged with crimes like murder, violent assault, etc?

    Not one of them were paroled during the appeal.

    And that was probably a mistake.

  7. Charles Liu
    February 8th, 2010 at 21:58 | #7

    Raj, I was refering to the underlying principle of mounting appeal while incarcerated, not if US law is applicable in Taiwan. If US law considers this viable, so can ROC law.

    Anyways, according to ROC penal code section 41, defense parole is based on sentencing guideline or actual sentence, not if crime is violent. Section 41 states crimes requiring 5 year or less, or 6 month actual sentence, may qualify – Chen got life.

    Also, if the verdict document does not stipulate possibility of defense parole, then it is not possible. Here’s Chen’s verdict, I did not find “易科罰金” mentioned.

  8. Raj
    February 8th, 2010 at 23:10 | #8

    Charles, just because something is considered viable in one country doesn’t mean it’s the best course of action to use all the time. I’ve heard that argument used many times when people say that China can’t hack US freedoms, so I don’t see why suddenly if the US can do it so can everyone else.

    If Chen can’t get bail because of his sentence, why is that never mentioned by the judges when they refuse bail? Their attitude is that they can grant it but don’t choose to.

  9. Josef
    February 9th, 2010 at 02:54 | #9

    Allen, in the discussion in FM about Chen’s trial the major opinion was that it was not a fair trial,- which you describe as “Some human-rights watch groups have raised concerns”. I will come to that at the end again.

    What really makes me upset is this sentence:” bring more pain and hurt to the people of Taiwan.” In Chens presidency the unleashing of Taiwan’s Tiger, which started under Lee, came to a high. The economic facts speak for itself. I wrote in another thread that nowadays Taiwan stands for excellence,- mainly because capable people, not KMT crown-princes, got into power. You did not live here during that time – what do you know?

    Fact is, that Ma’s main actions after being elected was to pay back his contributors, one of the real reasons why his approval ratings are so low.
    About Ma: you know what people think about Morakot: One day was delayed as he first rejected the American help. Why? First he was afraid allowing American Soldiers could hamper his “honeymoon with PRC”, second he preferred a good PR action from a PRC help, to summarize, he kowtowed to mainland china. If that is true, this action cost the life of several hundred people…
    We have been there, that for the same “crime” using special fund money, Ma was cleared, while Chen was not allowed to use the same argument: He spent a multiple on other occasions, with receipts , than that what he was accused for to have kept illegally.
    We know that Taiwanese prosecutors and judges have never been cleansed for the rulings they did under CKS. But this cleansing must come internally, and that makes the progress so slow. Currently you cannot trust Taiwanese judiciary. The remnant from that time is seen in very harsh and strict rulings,- last case was KMT legislator Diane Lee (Feb. 5).

    Now, there was this family purse thread in FM. And you know that one of the arguments for the “officially sentenced life in prison” was that “he must have known what his wife did”. I, like Steve, trust also all my money to my Taiwanese wife, and I wonder how it is in your case? Of course you are safe in the U.S. of any kind of this manipulated processes.
    I end with a reference to a song from Phil Ochs, which I like very much: “There but for fortune”.

  10. Rhan
    February 9th, 2010 at 03:45 | #10

    Josef
    “What really makes me upset is this sentence:” bring more pain and hurt to the people of Taiwan.” In Chens presidency the unleashing of Taiwan’s Tiger, which started under Lee, came to a high. The economic facts speak for itself. I wrote in another thread that nowadays Taiwan stands for excellence,- mainly because capable people, not -KMT crown-princes, got into power. You did not live here during that time – what do you know?”
    – I don’t see anything wrong with that sentence, the crumple of hope toward the son of Taiwan is not pain and hurt? If I will to agree Taiwan stand for excellent has nothing to do with KMT crown-prince, then I think it should have nothing to do with DPP and Lee as well. Btw, why mention Lee and not Jiang Jing Guo?

  11. jxie
    February 9th, 2010 at 04:14 | #11

    Josef,

    You have got the economic facts so fundamentally wrong it’s not even funny. Under Chen, Taiwan economically had severely underperformed. For instance, when Chen took office, the per capital GDP of Taiwan was near 35% bigger than that of South Korea; and when he left the office, it was near 20% smaller than the Korean counterpart. See http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2006/02/data/weorept.aspx?pr.x=59&pr.y=7&sy=2000&ey=2007&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=528%2C542&s=NGDPDPC%2CLUR&grp=0&a=

    Both Taiwan and South Korea are Asian Tiger members. (The other 2 are Hong Kong and Singapore, leading them by quite a bit.)

    A recent TV program in Taiwan examining the last decade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uMGZUSEPLQ

    A few highlights:

    * Korea once was poorer than Taiwan, and now is quite a bit richer than Taiwan.

    * The gap between mainland China and Taiwan is getting much smaller.

    * There has been no real income increase in the last decade.

    * The real income of recent A-level college graduate in mainland is catching up that of Taiwan. In some cases, it’s actually higher. 5 years out of graduation, the mainland Chinese’s pay increase has been much faster.

  12. February 9th, 2010 at 04:17 | #12

    @Josef #9,

    There is obviously (as usual) a lot we don’t see eye to eye. 😉 But what got me a little upset is this sentence.

    You wrote:

    The economic facts speak for itself. I wrote in another thread that nowadays Taiwan stands for excellence,- mainly because capable people, not KMT crown-princes, got into power. You did not live here during that time – what do you know?

    Really? Does the fact that Clinton presided over a time of prosperity while Obama did not also speak for itself? What about Reagan vs. Carter?

    Besides, did Chen’s administration really excel so much in economic management? My understanding is that Ma got elected in large part because of economics. Most Taiwanese believe he will better be able to manage the economics of Taiwan – in part by forging better relations with the Mainland.

    Anyways that’s not the part that got me upset, but the last part. “You did not live here during that time – what do you know?”

    I traveled many times and did live (for several months) in Taiwan during that period. I voted in that period. I paid taxes in that period. But what about you? Should we start comparing resumes? Shall we consider how many days we lived in Taiwan – or how much attention we paid to the press – or how much taxes we paid to the coffers of Taiwan? Does my income matter – or my asset (since tax is based mostly on those)? How about my family heritage (some here have suggested that only certain “ethnicities” in Taiwan should be entitled to Taiwan you know)? Shall we compare how much Taiwanese blood I (or you) have?

    Anyways – enough of my ranting. Your comments are welcomed here. I enjoy reading them – as that of many people with whom I disagree. The last sentence of my post is a personal commentary. Hold me to fire if you don’t agree. But don’t belittle my comments based on some silly, arbitrary standards….

  13. Josef
    February 9th, 2010 at 05:56 | #13

    jxie, I best refer to FM, Steve, he wrote in http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2009/09/12/chen-shui-bian-gets-life/ #153: from there

    The Taiwan GDP in 1988 was $7,907.18 US and in 2008, $30,881.48 US. It grew every year but one, and the growth in actual dollars was greater during Chen’s terms than during Lee’s. Exactly how did they destroy Taiwan’s economy and society? I was living there during Chen’s first term. Business was booming and the society was fine.

    I do not know if you laugh or not about this statement.

    Allen, I apologize for the sentence which annoyed you. I lived in Taiwan during Chen’s presidency and saw, especially the south flourishing in a way which I describe as unbelievable. I just was wondering if you had seen that too. And after one year in Singapore I was glad to return back. But now I ask you to be more specific: How exactly did Chen “bring pain and hurt to the people of Taiwan”?

    Just compare Ma and Chen, both lawyers’ development: One was sent as a son of a high KMT official to Harvard, the other one made his way by his own – with whom do you think Taiwanese can identify better? You quoted马上就好, but you know the result….

  14. February 9th, 2010 at 07:41 | #14

    @Josef #13,

    Ok – now I am getting annoyed with you. Who said who destroyed Taiwan’s economy and society? If you compare Taiwan’s economic growth in the 2000’s it wasn’t bad. It was just bad compared with what it could be – and with other Asian economies. Taiwan was getting left behind, and people know it. This is why even today despite fears of competition from the Mainland, Taiwan will most likely sign the free trade agreement.

    As for pain and hurt – go read the newspapers a bit. There are so many angles to approach it. Even my green friends feel betrayed by his actions.

    As your last paragraph – I will spare some bytes on the server.

  15. jxie
    February 9th, 2010 at 07:50 | #15

    Josef, didn’t see Steve’s early comment. The data he quoted is messed up. The per capital GDP data of earlier years (including 1988) is nominal data, and latter years (including 2008) is PPP data. It was pretty well known — at least to a mainlander like me who then lived with some Taiwanese roommates — that Taiwan’s per capita nominal GDP cleared $10K in 1991. In 2008, according to the World Bank, Taiwan’s nominal per capital GDP was $17K. I don’t know in that set of data, where the diversion of nominal GDP and PPP GDP began though.

    PPP is so screwed up in so many different ways. Often an international organization, e.g. the World Bank, collected some very partial data years if not decades ago, and that became the base for PPP ratio calculation. Official inflation data is used to build on top of that as the current PPP ratio. Well, the implicit PPP ratio in Taiwan today, is actually higher than that in mainland now. It sounds kind of ridiculous at first, but on second thought it may not totally out of whack considered how weak the Taiwanese Dollar has been. But still though, it really doesn’t sound right given how overall Taiwan is more developed than mainland.

    From $10K in 1991 to $17K in 2008, that’s annualized 3% nominal growth in dollar term — not even in constant dollar term. Considered the dollar-based inflation, the real dollar-based growth may be very close to 0, if not outright negative. In 1990, the starting salary of a tenured professor in Taiwan was roughly $35K. Today? It’s roughly the same.

  16. Rhan
    February 9th, 2010 at 08:39 | #16

    “Just compare Ma and Chen, both lawyers’ development: One was sent as a son of a high KMT official to Harvard, the other one made his way by his own – with whom do you think Taiwanese can identify better?”

    Of course Chen is many times better, that is where the pain and hurt come from.

  17. Josef
    February 9th, 2010 at 08:59 | #17

    “Taiwan was getting left behind, and people know it.”
    Like TSMC, UMC, ASE, Mediatek, ACER, ASUS, Benq, …. a very long list, and all got left behind – I do not know which Taiwan you mean.
    As for pain and hurt, go read your own thread about the life sentence and the various opinions there (you can also read today’s apple daily, or Taiwanese news)
    But I see we are at a point of the discussion were a break could help. I still value your opinion very high.

  18. February 9th, 2010 at 09:05 | #18

    @Josef #17,

    OK – a timeout would be good.

    Just so you don’t misunderstand. I am proud of Taiwan. We pride ourselves on working hard, on bootstrapping ourselves, on making things better for the next generation.

    As for Chen, he is a lowlife however I look at it. As a Chinese, I feel he is a traitor to the nation. As a Taiwanese, I feel he is a double-tongued serpent who has lied and betrayed us – and who continues to want to use us.

    OK – now I’ll go time out.

  19. Raj
    February 9th, 2010 at 12:24 | #19

    Allen (18)

    As a Chinese, I feel he is a traitor to the nation. As a Taiwanese, I feel he is a double-tongued serpent who has lied and betrayed us – and who continues to want to use us.

    Problem is that his nation isn’t China – it’s Taiwan. He was elected to serve the best interests of the island, not that of China or Chinese nationalists.

    As for lying and betraying the Taiwanese people, I guess you’re talking about having his hand in the till. That might have been the case, though if so the KMT did much worse through its years of plundering. I think people are disappointed in Chen because they thought he would be different. Apparently he wasn’t.

    That said I think it’s a bit much to say he “betrayed” the Taiwanese people. Under Chen Taiwanese democracy was strengthened, not weakened. It was the first time there was a peaceful transition of power from the KMT to another party, said non-KMT president staying in office for a second term and then power passing back to the KMT when they won the 2008 election. There was no state of emergency imposed to stay in office, no persecution of opposition (i.e. KMT) politicians to make life hard for them, no gerrymandering, etc.

    The only question is whether Taiwan will be democratic enough in 2012 to allow the DPP to regain the presidency (and maybe gain the legislative) if that is what the people of Taiwan want.

  20. Rhan
    February 9th, 2010 at 13:06 | #20

    “Under Chen Taiwanese democracy was strengthened, not weakened.”

    Huh?

    “The only question is whether Taiwan will be democratic enough in 2012 to allow the DPP to regain the presidency (and maybe gain the legislative) if that is what the people of Taiwan want.”

    Don’t insult Taiwanese though some do support KMT. Taiwan democracy spirit is the blood and sweat of all Taiwanese. The smooth transition that earns our respect is the one when Chen won his first president.

    Chen Shui Bien is like what Allan put it, a lowlife. What he did damage the sensible and noble of democratic that ultimately could strengthen CCP grip toward China.

    Life sentenced is an extremely light punishment for one scumbag.

  21. Raj
    February 9th, 2010 at 17:06 | #21

    Don’t insult Taiwanese though some do support KMT. Taiwan democracy spirit is the blood and sweat of all Taiwanese.

    What exactly are you trying to say in response to my point that the test of Taiwanese democracy will be whether it’s possible for the DPP to win in 2012 in a fair contest if that’s what people want?

    The smooth transition that earns our respect is the one when Chen won his first president.

    What about the transition in 2008, what was wrong with that?

    What he did damage the sensible and noble of democratic that ultimately could strengthen CCP grip toward China.

    How on earth did he do that?

  22. Bridge
    February 10th, 2010 at 00:10 | #22

    “So Chen has started a letter-writing campaign asking the public to lobby his successor, Ma Ying-jeou, for a chance to go home.”

    Oh, I don’t like what Chen is doing here. Is he still playing political games? I mean, as a lawyer, Chen should know better that it is the court, the judiciary who decides whether he gets a parole. However, Chen is making it like Ma has the ultimate decision on his parole. He’s trying to give the public the influence that Ma is above the law and controls the law. It also creates tensions between KMT and the legal system. It’s like a naughty boy asking his mum to give him the water gun his father locked away – nothing wrong on the surface, but if you think carefully…

  23. Josef
    November 7th, 2010 at 19:45 | #23

    Bridge you wrote:
    He’s trying to give the public the influence that Ma is above the law and controls the law.

    Today’s KMT friendly China Post wrote:
    http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/national/national-news/2010/11/08/279066/Taiwan-prosecutors.htm
    Current President Ma Ying-jeou appeared to question the court’s decision as well.
    “The judiciary needs to be independent but it cannot be isolated from society or betray public expectations,” Ma said.
    Which means, after the mob was mobiles with leaking information, making jokes on A-Bians’ trail etc., he wants this manipulated public expectations influence the independent court.
    Background is, that a court declared A-bian not guilty (in one of the many cases, and it is anyway immediately drawn to the next level by the prosecutors)
    To understand that: it has not some much to do with A-Bians’ case but rather with the coming elections. But at least in this point we can say, Ma, if he does not control (although there recently direct anti A-bian laws, like the support of this office being cancelled), he strongly influence the courts. I guess A-bian will be in jail until 2016, as only then there might be a realistic chance that the DPP regains presidency and with that a fair judgment.

  24. Josef
    November 7th, 2010 at 19:48 | #24

    Bridge you wrote:
    He’s trying to give the public the influence that Ma is above the law and controls the law.

    Today’s KMT friendly China Post wrote:
    http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/national/national-news/2010/11/08/279066/Taiwan-prosecutors.htm
    Current President Ma Ying-jeou appeared to question the court’s decision as well.
    “The judiciary needs to be independent but it cannot be isolated from society or betray public expectations,” Ma said.
    Which means, after the mob was mobilized with leaking information, making jokes on A-Bians’ trail etc., he wants this manipulated public expectations influence the independent court.
    Background is, that a court declared A-bian not guilty (in one of the many cases, and it is anyway immediately drawn to the next level by the prosecutors)
    To understand that: it has not some much to do with A-Bians’ case but rather with the coming elections. But at least in this point we can say, Ma, if he does not control (although there recently direct anti A-bian laws, like the support of this office being cancelled), he strongly influence the courts. I guess A-bian will be in jail until 2016, as only then there might be a realistic chance that the DPP regains presidency and with that a fair judgment.

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