Annette Lu, Taiwan's Former Vice President Adds Her Voice to Protests Against the KMT Dominated Judiciary

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Wednesday November 19, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Former Vice President Annette Lu is no stranger to persecution and bad-mouthing from both the People's Republic of China (PRC) as well as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Until now after leaving office, she has been relatively silent on the recent abuses of the KMT dominated judiciary system under Ma Ying-jeou. In the following statement however, she does not hold back and adds her voice and legal experience to the many other critics of the heavy-handed measures used by the KMT judiciary. A Harvard educated lawyer, Ms. Lu goes into great detail on the specifics of the abuses.

On September 25, 150 investigators from the Special Investigation Team descended on 27 residential and office addresses related to former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian to search for and confiscate evidence against him. Subsequently, 9 people were detained on reasons that they might forge evidence or fabricate stories to help Chen. On November 11, Chen went to the investigation court to answer questions. After more than 8 hours questioning, the court ordered him to be detained on charges of money laundering, embezzling State Affairs funds, and forging documents, even though he had not even been formally indicted. Chen was led away in handcuffs. He is the first former head of state to go to prison. Viewing the whole incident as political persecution, Chen decided to give up appeal as a means of protest. He has been on a hunger strike ever since, and was hospitalized on Nov. 17.

Chen's detention has been widely seen as a political purge - a political manipulation aimed at destroying the DPP. In the process, not only has due process of law not been observed, but Chen's human rights have been greatly abused.

Points of controversy in the Special Investigation Division's handling of this case include:

  1. As far as all former presidents were concerned, the State Affairs Fund is a special fund that is for the president to use freely as he wishes and is not subject to scrutiny. This practice was instated by the KMT fifty years ago and has been observed by all presidents without any question. What is unusual about President Chen's use of this fund is the unprecedented step taken by the Ministry of Audit in demanding that receipts relating to the fund be provided for verification.

    Furthermore, all the political contribution Chen received has been treated as bribery, whereas KMT's has never been questioned or scrutinized.
  2. Despite the investigators' and prosecutors' high drama, from start to finish, judicial procedure has been violated in this case. Long before President Chen was detained, many of his subordinates, relatives, friends, and even his son and daughter were targeted, creating an atmosphere of political persecution in which people were taken into custody to extract statements and homes were confiscated and entire families threatened.
  3. Further evidence for the politicization of the judiciary is the fact that although the law clearly states that all criminal investigations must be conducted within closed door, information about Chen's case has been leaked to certain pro-KMT TV commentators on daily basis, who fully utilize the information to blacken Chen, to sway public opinion, and to brain-wash their TV audiences into believing Chen is guilty beyond doubt. Even Taiwan's Minister of Justice has appeared on television to express her views on the case.
  4. Despite having served eight years as head of state, and even though he was not being indicted, Chen was surrounded by 3,000 officers and placed in handcuffs in order to be detained. His detention is clearly an attack on his human rights. Taiwan's Code of Criminal Procedure states that detention can be ordered "if someone is likely to abscond, destroy, forge or alter evidence, or conspire with a co-offender or witness." Given that Chen has already had three months to do any of these things, his detention clearly serves other purposes. This is most likely part of the ruling administration's plan to discredit Chen and to humiliate him in public.
  5. In Taiwan, major government officials and county and city mayors all have special funds at their disposal. It's a common practice that's been observed for 50 years, and like the President's State Affairs Fund, the users have never been asked by the Ministry of Audit to verify them.

    But since former President Chen was accused of mishandling the State Affairs Fund, KMT and DPP started to accuse each other's past or current officials and mayors for mishandling their special funds, and many law suits have been brought to court. However, out of the 6,800 officials who enjoy that privilege, only 6 have been targeted for persecution - all members of the DPP. Although many cases of KMT officials' mishandling of the special funds have also been brought to the courts' attention, including former Taipei Mayor (now President) Ma Ying-jeou, former Vice President Lien Chan, former premier Vincent Siew, current Taipei Mayor Hou Long-bin and many more, Ma has been acquitted, and none of the other KMT cases has been investigated to date.

    No wonder people suspect that Chen's detention is part of a wider political purge being carried out by the newly elected administration under President Ma Ying-jeou.
  6. In addition, in the past two weeks, two serving county and city mayors who are members of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party were taken into custody without warning on charges of corruption. This is seen by many as an attempt to besmirch their names in advance of next year's local government elections. In contrast, in the last two years, eight KMT mayors have been accused of corruption, but none of them has been detained or charged.

In a democratic state, the judiciary should be independent of the executive and legislative branches of government. Regrettably, it seems that Taiwan's judiciary under Ma's administration has not only failed to exercise its constitutional function but has also been used for political prosecution.