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Forgiveness, repentance and progress for the New Year

Publication Date : 19-02-2013


For most of the people in Taiwan, the new Year of the Serpent began on the first day of the first moon on the Chinese lunar calendar, which fell on February 10 on the Gregorian calendar this year. Traditionally, Chinese people celebrate their New Year Festival for five days, but the festive spirit is very much in the air until the Lantern Festival, which is marked on the fifteenth day of the first moon, falling on February 24. It's still time for us to make belated New Year's wishes.

Before making New Year's wishes, we should thank God or Heaven for our luck not to have any elections in the Year of the Serpent. In a democracy, elections are inevitable, like paying taxes, but we don't like the divisive elections we used to have that hurt our communal harmony. We are happy we don't have to pray for sparing us such elections this time around.

To help Taiwan repair the half-broken communal harmony, we wish President Ma Ying-jeou would give our impenitent former President Chen Shui-bian a pardon, if possible, or a respite from behind the bars. . Chen, who is doing time for corruption and graft, serves himself right, of course. But he is ill, though maybe not so ill as he presents himself to be. He had better be given a chance to have a family reunion like everybody else, come the next Year of the Horse. Ma doesn't want to pardon Chen until the court of law settles all the cases involving the ex-head of state. But it takes too much time. We wish Ma, whose family name means the horse, would let Chen reunite with his family in the Year of the Horse. On one condition, however. Chen has to repent.

So, let us wish Chen would emulate the Wudi Emperor of the Han Dynasty who ruled China from 140 to 86 BC. The emperor taxed the people so heavily to finance the military expansion of his empire that the dynasty began to decline. So Wudi issued the first imperial rescript for penitence in Chinese history. But the emperor did not actually blame himself. He blamed his army. Nor did he confess the mistakes he made during his long rule to expand the empire. Chen could write a rescript for penitence a la Wudi to apologise for the corruption and graft and so win a pardon.

For humanitarian reasons, too, we wish the Ministry of Defence would let Justin Lin, a Taiwanese-born deserter captain who defected to China and later became a vice president of the World Bank, come home for a reunion visit in the Year of the Serpent. He has been wanted for treason because he swam across a narrow strip of water from Quemoy to Amoy for defection in 1979. All our top brass should do to let him return to his hometown of Yilan is not to toil or delay a limitation period of the statute of limitations. A limitation period begins running upon accrual of action, which is subject to interpretation by judges. If not toiled, the limitation period for Lin's treason has long run out.

Lin's is not an isolated case. There still are a hundred or so Taiwanese-born soldiers of Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang Army who surrendered to the People's Liberation Army shortly before the end of the Chinese civil war, fought in Korea against the UN forces in the Korean War and returned to China rather than Taiwan. Like Justin Lin, they want to come home but are barred for a similar reason. We wish they would be able to visit their hometowns before they die.

Our last New Year's wish is that there won't be be another petty trade war between Taiwan and the United States this year. The two countries fought a long American beef war because the Democratic Progressive Party opposed the importation of beef and beef products with meat enhancing ractopamine residue. As the beef war is over, the two countries are all set to resume TIFA (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) negotiations in Taipei next month and imports of American pork and pork products with ractopamine residue may trigger a pork war, depending on how the opposition party is going to react. As a matter of fact, the beef war is a farce. We wish the farce wouldn't be repeated.

Oops, there is one more wish. We wish all our readers a very happy Year of the Serpent!


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