Juchen Inmate 2630

Taiwan is a divided society. That’s its core problem when dealing with China. Neither did president Chen Shui-bian find common ground for his more independent-minded approach, nor will president Ma Ying-jeou with his conciliatory approach towards Beijing.

If former chancellor Helmut Kohl had been arrested in 1999 because of the financial scandal of his party and his refusal to name the donors in question to the CDU, I would have thought of such an arrest – rightly or wrongly – as a great step towards more transparency and less corruption. But what should I make of Chen Shui-bian’s arrest?

He is only under investigation, but pictures this week showed him in handcuffs. One problem when trying to assess the situation is that Taiwan’s political scene is extremely combative. There are few shades of grey, and there is a lot of black and white. Ask Shih Ming-deh (who probably hates Chen more than most KMT ganbu’s, and Chen is black. Ask DPP supporters, and Chen will appear either white, or grey.

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Stephen Young voiced the expectation be transparent, fair and impartial.  It’s good to know that what happens in Taiwan now is watched from abroad. Personally, I’m not really optimistic that the process against Chen will “strengthen the confidence both here [in Taiwan] and around the world”, as Young puts it. How can it be that prosecutors under the KMT, which is itself a party of cronyism, moves that quickly to the indictment of the so far only non-KMT president?

Chen is detained at Juchen Prison, as inmate 2630. Juchen is the same facility where he was held 21 years ago. The prosecutor’s office said Chen could be held indefinitely before charges are filed, but there was no intention to delay.

Now he is going on hungerstrike. That looks too melodramatic to me – his record isn’t as clean as it was when he was arrested 21 years earlier. But it is probably an efficient move to mobilize many of those who don’t like Chen, but are skeptikal of the ruling KMT’s ability to resist the temptations of authoritarianism. Even if one considers Chen’s two presidential terms as complete failures, maybe he will become a test case for Taiwan’s judiciary.

Public service never ends.

One Trackback to “Juchen Inmate 2630”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: