Archive for July 8th, 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

“Encouraging all That”: Wu Den-yih targets Lee Teng-hui

Premier Wu Den-yih [president Ma Ying-jeou‘s running mate for the January 2012 presidential elections – JR] yesterday accused former President Lee Teng-hui of condoning corruption, with the country marred by rampant “black gold politics” under his leadership,

reports the China Post, and continues:

“Black gold politics ran wild during Lee Teng-hui’s 13-year presidential stint. Who was encouraging all that?” Wu claimed during a TV interview, apparently blaming the former president for Taiwan’s widespread corruption.

Most observers seem to agree that liberalization in Taiwan came with intensified criminal activity in the underworld.

Ko-lin Chin, author of the “Black Gold Politics” chapter in Roy Godson‘s (editor) “Menace to Society”, New Brunswick, London, 2003, quoted a former police chief from a southern city:

Before the abolition of martial law, the crime problem in Taiwan was a minor one. At the time, our main concern was the existence of gambling dens and commercial sex establishments. After martial law was lifted in 1986, however, patrols of the coast became almost nonexistent, and as a result, it was easy to smuggle guns and drugs into Taiwan. That completely changed the crime scene here. (Godson, p. 260.)

Ko continued:

Hardly a day goes by without news reports about politicians, businessmen, and gangsters being involved in financial scandal, big rigging, corruption, vote-buying, violent confrontation, or fraud. More often than not, the KMT is blamed for the development of black gold politics. The assumption is that, in order to maintain its power as a ruling party and to defeat the emerging opposition parties such as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Nationalists deliberately established a close relationship with anyone who was powerful enough to assure that the KMT candidates win elections. Many gang and jiaotou members are well connected to grassroot politics, and they become ideal campaign managers or so-called “pillars” or vote captains. After these heidao figures became familiar with the election process, they eventually decided to run for public offices themselves. When the KMT realized that these gangsters and jiaotou figures would be elected with or without their blessing and support, the party decided to embrace them, to make sure that the KMT remained the majority party in both local and national elected bodies. (pp 267-268)

All that said, Ko’s chapter didn’t suggest that only the KMT had such ties – and of the political parties existing at the time, around 2003, the New Party seemed to maintain fewer such contacts than either the KMT or the DPP.

While Sun Yat-sen‘s triad connections may still count as rather noble, the KMT’s underworld connections had probably degenerated some time before 1927, when the KMT-affiliated Green Gang (青幫) massacred hundreds (if not thousands) of communists and union leaders in Shanghai under the name of Society for Common Progress.

Meantime, the Taipei Times reports that the KMT were demanding 240 million NT-Dollars which People’s First Party‘s (PFP) James Soong had – allegedly – taken from the KMT in 1999. The KMT is reportedly seeking cooperation with the – also pan-blue – PFP to win the presidential elections.


» How Chiang Kai-shek Blew It, December 20, 2010
» Reform without Zijiren, October 5, 2009

Friday, July 8, 2011

JR’s (Early) Weekender: How Liberal can Taiwan’s DPP Become?

To a number of observers, the evidence is clear: the indictment of former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui was triggered from the KMT center.

Obviously, the KMT history provides lots of evidence that would support such suspicions – and there hasn’t only been a traditional majority for the KMT in the Legislative Yuan – the government’s executive branch, and the judicial branch, too, are dominated by pan-blue leaning officials.

That said,  it didn’t necessarily take phone calls from the presidential office, from the KMT headquarters, or from any other central corridor of power to get Lee indicted. United Daily News (UDN, pan-blue) receiving advance information about the indictment is not necessarily evidence for the center’s involvement, either. An indictment may only require a number of ambitious lower-ranking officials within the judiciary who aim at big, and – apparently, anyway – opportune game. Game that might help to further their individual careers, that is.

If Lee is really an opportune target remains to be seen. For one, there’s no reason yet to believe that he were guilty as charged. And for many of those who support him, it wouldn’t make a difference if there was. Many people of Lee’s traditional constituency are themselves viewing matters in a pretty traditional way, and are accordingly tolerant of the practise he’s accused of. That the special investigators themselves are asking for a sentence that would take Lee’s presidential achievements into account, too, seems to mirror a concern that they may have much of the public opinion against them.

Public opinion, however, matters – not only in indictments of politicians, and not only in Taiwan. When a German television weatherman, Jörg Kachelmann, was tried for alleged rape, the prosecutor reportedly announced one of his moves in an interview, prior to the day in court. The defense, too, worked the public.

Lawyers in Germany have for decades used the media to try to influence the public in favour of their clients,

a professor for Communication Research told Deutsche Welle in September last year.

The main problem is that the professional integrity of Taiwan’s judiciary is by no means beyond doubt. Former president Chen Shui-bian‘s trials have hardly helped to alleviate doubts in the system’s impartiality.

The KMT is anything but civic. The DPP, on the other hand, may be striving to be civic. It is a member of the Liberal International federation, which would suggest that the party cherishes liberal values. But no organization can escape its country’s history. Liberalism in practise depends on a degree of trust in public institutions which is often absent in Taiwan. At the same time, the DPP has nationalist streaks of its own – Taiwanese, rather than Chinese, nationalism. Liberalism and nationalism are hard to reconcile.

It seems natural that in the current Taiwanese environment, the DPP’s options to become more liberal are limited. The need to struggle against KMT-dominated sovereign institutions is too obvious. But small steps toward more liberalism can be taken. Tsai Ing-wen‘s presidential nomination – and her position as the DPP’s chairperson – seem to be promising indicators. Nationalism doesn’t play a dominating role in her presidential campaign – at least not yet. Taiwanese or anti-Chinese nationalism is in fact that absent in her campaign that the KMT and affiliated media had to invent news to suggest otherwise.

Chances are that, supposed that there is a lack of public trust in the country’s institutions, Lee Teng-hui’s indictment will hurt the pan-blue camp more than the pan-green camp. But chances for that are best if the pan-green camp handles the issue without operating too far-reaching conspiracies. Taiwan’s public will watch the legal proceedings closely – the opposition’s main job now is to tell the citizens why the DPP will be better for Taiwan – in the Legislative Yuan, and in the presidential office.

And once the DPP is there, it needs to build  trust in Taiwan’s institutions. Chen Shui-bian’s eight years in the presidential office shouldn’t be taken as guidance.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jiang Zemin’s Health Matters

Bloomberg‘s Adam Minter kept scanning the Jiang compound in Shanghai on Thursday, for evidence that former party and state chairman Jiang Zemin might be dead. China Daily cited Xinhua as saying that recent reports of some overseas media organizations about Jiang Zemin’s death from illness are “pure rumor”. (Hong Kong, some of who’s media were apparently among those reporting, may not qualify as overseas, though.)

It was Jiang’s absence from the CCP’s 90th-birthday ceremonies which had put the coffin-spotters on alert.

Mr. Jiang’s surprising, and very obvious, absence is now certain to fuel rumors circulating in Beijing in recent months that he may be severely unwell, and therefore losing his ability to influence key Party decisions,

the Wall Street Journal‘s (WSJ) China Blog wrote on July 1. While Xi Jinping is believed to be firmly appointed as Hu Jintao‘s successor, in all the capacities as party chairman, state chairman, and head of the central military commission, and while Li Keqiang is likely to become Wen Jiabao‘s successor as chief state councillor, many of the seats within the politbureau’s standing committee may still be up for grabs.

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