Buddhist Master Hsing Yun on Monday urged President Ma Ying-jeou to show lenience toward his jailed predecessor Chen Shui-bian based on the spirit of "compassion and benevolence." He also suggested that Ma pardon army defector Justin Lin, who is now a vice president of the World Bank, and allow him to return to Taiwan to see his family.
Hsing Yun suggested that aside from the possibilities of granting Chen a pardon or medical parole, Ma could also consider putting him under house arrest, as the late Republic of China President Chiang Kai-shek did to Chang Hsueh-liang, a central figure in the 1936 Xian Incident.
Many people probably find such a comparison inappropriate. While Chang's case was political in nature and happened during the authoritarian era, Chen is being jailed over a corruption conviction and is not a political prisoner. Furthermore, it is impossible to put anyone under house arrest in a democracy.
All men are equal before the law. Former South Korean presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, former Philippines President Joseph Estrada, and former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori were also arrested and jailed after they were discovered to have been involved in irregularities.
As to Lin's case, Hsing Yun believes the case is the product of past hostility across the Taiwan Strait and should be given special treatment now that the two sides have put aside their old grudges to move toward reconciliation.
On the issue of Lin returning to Taiwan, there are opponents and proponents in both the blue and green camps. But to the military, it must stand firm in its role of protecting the country despite the easing of cross-strait tensions. Lin's story simply embodies the complicated relations between the two sides of the strait.
As a religious leader, Hsing Yun is showing his compassion. But as a national leader, Ma has to consider issues based on the country's interests and abide by the law. (Editorial abstract -- May 16, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)