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Fault line in Taiwan is over how to live with China
Publication Date : 01-08-2013
A fault line is a minor split that may develop into something larger. It may mean a potentially disruptive division or area of contention.
The fault line in Taiwan is over how to peacefully coexist with China, but not over the fate of former President Chen Shui-bian serving a 20-year sentence for corruption and graft and money laundering as claimed by an International Herald Tribune reporter. Austin Ramzy, the reporter, concluded Taiwan is split on whether Chen, under treatment for severe depression in the Taichung Prison Hospital, should get medical parole. Chen is behind bars in a prison cell. He is leading his prison life in a five-star special hospital ward complete with an exclusive small garden within the Taichung Prison compound.
Nothing is farther from the truth than the Ramzy conclusion.
Yes, Chen still has ardent supporters despite the iron-clad evidence that he accepted bribes and had part of the laundered money deposited in two Swiss banks.
They condemn his public trial and conviction as a political persecution, and demand that he be set free.
As a consequence, the Democratic Progressive Party, which needs his support in elections, cannot but press a demand for his medical parole, which is impossible under present circumstances.
Chen has admitted to influence-peddling. He did not contest the charge, though he insists he took the money and remitted it overseas as part of a fund for creating a republic of Taiwan. As a matter of fact, he declared he had done what the law forbids to resign from the DPP long before his conviction.
He wasn't tried and convicted by kangaroo courts.
There remain quite a few corruption and graft cases involving the ex-president which have yet to be closed, and of course depression can be faked.
Moreover, every inmate doing time for long years is depressed some time or other, such as Shih Ming-teh, a revolutionist former chairman of the DPP who had served part of his life sentence for treason before he was pardoned by President Lee Teng-hui.
One thing that proves Chen isn't suffering severe depression is his initiative to rejoin the party which he believes owes him so much. He had his former top lieutenant Keh Chien-ming, the long-time legislative caucus whip of the party, file applications for his reinstatement.
While the opposition party is assessing his applications, Keh joined hands with his Kuomintang counterpart to ram through an amendment to the Auditing Law that would exonerate Yen Ching-piao, an independent lawmaker jailed for misusing his expense account to treat his pals to dinners in girlie restaurants while he was speaker of the Taichung County Council. Chen mistakenly thought he would also be absolved of his misappropriation of the public funds under his control for the conduct of “state affairs” while in office.
But when the Ministry of Justice ruled the amendment shouldn't benefit Yen, Chen was so disappointed that he put up a show of suicide in a bid to force the party's hand.
He tried to hang himself with a towel in a shower at his luxury Peide hospital room on June 2. It's his third mock attempt to get a release from confinement.
No one suffering severe depression would go to such great lengths as Chen did by claiming he ruled for eight years as an agent of the American military government of Taiwan and pleading with the US Military Court of Appeals in Washington to order the nonexistent regime to instruct President Ma Ying-jeou to immediately release him and countermand his sentence.
The single purpose of Chen is to get back to the party, which is trying to distance him, to rally all the fellow members behind his medical parole cause for now and make a political comeback as a king maker again in the 2016 presidential election.
Party leaders are afraid he may succeed, delaying the decision to let him come back.
It is possible that they may turn down his application or accept him as member with many strings attached. On the other hand, the DPP is now busy reaching an intra-party consensus on how Taiwan should coexist peacefully with its giant neighbour in preparation for next year's nationwide local elections and the 2016 presidential race.
The party has to find a political compromise between the extremes of Taiwan independence and eventual Chinese unification, which factually mark the fault line in the island state of 23 million people.