JIngmei Prison Exposes Taiwan's Double Standard of Justice on Lin Yi-shih Case

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Thursday May 16, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

An important place to visit for all Taiwanese and foreigners interested in Taiwan's history is the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Culture Park. Built as a prison in the late 1960s, it served as the primary detention center and court for political prisoners during the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) one-party state period. The list of those detained and tried there reads like a Who's Who of political dissent and includes such well-known names as Bo Yang, Li Ao, and of course all those involved in the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident.

Jingmei now stands as a reminder of the disparities and double standard of justice that existed during Martial Law and White Terror under the KMT. For many, however, the double standard of that past has not left today's courts. Why? First, compare two cases from that past, those of Bo Yang and Admiral Wang His-ling. Bo Yang was tried at Jingmei in 1969 because he drew a Popeye cartoon that satirized Chiang Kai-shek, his son and the KMT one-party state. He then was sentenced to Green Island. The Jingmei cell of Bo Yang was a standard 7 ping (249 sq. ft.) and shared with two others. All slept on floor mats near an open toilet. Jingmei visitors if any, had very limited access hours in a public room where they talked to prisoners through a glass wall via phone. Satire proved to be a serious crime.

Contrast Yang"s case then with that of KMT Admiral Wang His-ling. Wang was guilty of ordering the murder of Henry Liu in 1984. If it had been simply a case of murder on Taiwan soil Wang would probably have gotten away with it like those guilty of the murder the Lin Yi-hsiung family when that Lin was a prisoner in Jingmei (1980) or the murder of Chen Wen-chen (1984). But this particular murder was committed on foreign soil (the USA) and the USA government wanted answers and justice. Wang was found guilty, but got off easy in his sentencing.

A special building was built at Jingmei just for Wang and his deputy. This "cell" was a 37 ping home (1316 sq. feet) and separate from all other prison buildings. Wang and his deputy each had their own bedroom, study with bookshelves, dining and greeting room, bathroom etc. Able to gaze out the window of his study, Wang could always ask the guard stationed nearby to bring him anything he wished. Wang's wife had daily conjugal access to visit his rooms. It was a comfortable setup. Wang served two years there before being transferred to house arrest on Yangmingshan where he served another three years before being freed.

For satire, Bo Yang spent nine years in a crowded Green Island prison with no visitors. For murder, however, Wang spent only two years in a restricted but comfortable home. After that he spent three years in house arrest in the mountains with daily visitor privileges at both. Outrageous yes, but that was Martial Law and double standards could be expected.

Fast-forward now to examine two recent trials in Taiwan's courts where it is not satire vs. murder but yet an apparent double standard rears its head. They are the cases of Chen Shui-bian and Lin Yi-shih. In the Chen case, from the very beginning a vendetta attitude appeared as the prosecutors pledged before trial that they would resign if they did not find Chen guilty. Then the prosecutors and judges (supposed adversaries in the courtroom) jointly mocked Chen in a skit ironically at a party celebrating Justice Day for the Republic of China. As the case developed, Chen was denied required privacy in meeting with his lawyers until a higher court declared that this was illegal. When a judge ruled that Chen could be free on bail to prepare his case, that judge was changed and replaced by one that refused bail. In sharp contrast, in the Lin case, prosecutors and judges played separate roles and Lin despite his conviction was freed on bail to prepare an appeal.

In the Chen case, the testimony of the two main witnesses of the state appears questionable and forced. The prosecutors both badgered and bargained to get them to say what the prosecution wished, namely that political donations were in actuality bribes. Witness Jeffrey Koo Jr. stated afterwards that his statement that he bribed Chen was falsely made under duress and threat of imprisonment. Diana Chen, the other witness, was also badgered. In effect, she was told that she would be prevented from getting a job in Taiwan unless she said what the prosecution wanted. Changing her testimony that the money given Chen was not a political donation but a bribe, the court then gave her a suspended sentence for perjury. Judges and prosecutors appeared working together against the defendant.

In the Lin case, there was no badgering of the witness Chen Chi-hsiang; he had willingly come forward when KMT Lin demanded an additional NT$83 million to the NT$63 million Chen had paid him as legislator to secure a slag treatment contract. In this case, the three district court judges sided not with the prosecution but with Lin's defense lawyers using an "actual influence" concept to interpret the money paid as not being a bribe but simple "extortion" therefore lessening all sentences.

In the Chen Shui-bian's case the questionable testimony was used to cast a wide net and accuse and punish anyone remotely involved including Chen's wife, assistants & secretaries etc. In the Lin case the judges determined only Lin was liable though his mother, wife and uncles tried to dispose of and hide the illegal money. It was "technically" interpreted as not money laundering. Again, in the Chen case, judges worked with prosecutors to find maximum ways to establish guilt; in the Lin case, judges worked against prosecutors to find innocence.

In the Chen case, the family assets have been frozen beyond what was allegedly claimed to be a bribe while the prosecution searches for other ways to tie up the family money. In the Lin case, because of the court's interpretation, the money Lin demanded and acquired is all to be given back to him. It was "technically" not a bribe despite Lin's bullying demands for it. Thus in the public eye, a double standard reminiscent of the KMT's one-party state days still exists in the dinosaur judges left over in the courts. In Chen's case the judiciary sought the harshest interpretation possible; in Lin's case the judiciary sought to find the most lenient interpretation possible. Taiwanese can thus ask has justice been done, or does the double standard of the KMT's one party state still exist?