When the prosecution investigated an alleged corruption case involving Chiayi county government officials, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cried foul, claiming that the judicial authorities are just hunting down "pan-green" suspects without going after "pan-blue" ones.
Because the timing of the arrest of the sister of Chiayi Magistrate Chang Hua-kuan came so close to a probe into former ruling Kuomintang legislative caucus whip Lin Yi-shih, who later became secretary-general of the Cabinet, for taking NT$63 million in bribes from a businessman, the DPP accused the prosecutors and investigators of trying to divert public attention away from a high-level scandal suspected of involving more KMT officials.
Taiwan has gone through two peaceful transfers of power from one party to another, and yet the DPP, which was in power 2000-2008, is still complaining about "being persecuted." It sounds odd and weird. It is certainly anachronistic.
The prosecutors have questioned but freed Chang and her predecessor Chen Ming-wen, both of the DPP, detaining only Chang's sister, another county official, a businessman and three academics in the suspected corruption cases. They dared not detain the incumbent and former county magistrates for fear of setting off a political bomb.
We can understand that the prosecution authorities were acting carefully to avoid a direct conflict between the judicial and the political forces in the country. But this is not a healthy way of playing the role of an independent judiciary.
So, in Taiwan, is it the judiciary that is persecuting politicians or politicians who are persecuting the judiciary? We can get an answer after learning that the judicial authorities are often hampered from doing their jobs normally and independently.
In connection with the ongoing corruption sagas involving both the DPP and the KMT, we can take a look at the sudden resignation of Kaohsiung's environmental department chief, Lee Mu-sheng, who according to media reports was the man who ordered China Steel Corp. to stop supplying -- and resume supplying -- slag to Dih Yeon Industrial Co., whose chief executive paid bribes to Lin Yi-shih.
For more than a month, judicial investigators did not probe Lee's role in the case until a local magazine broke the news that Lee had demanded NT$50 million from the Dih Yeon boss who greased Lin's palm.
We're pleased and concerned at the same time about how the media can do a better job than the prosecution in exposing a corruption scandal. If the media had not started investigating the high-profile case, how would the official investigators have concluded their probe?
Now that political forces have joined in the fact finding process, how much social justice can be expected from our judicial authorities?
If the judicial authorities are probing Lin alone on the KMT side, without going after other possible suspects involved in the state- controlled enterprise scandal, it will be the judicial equivalent of "self-censorship."
Also, the argument that when the justice officials are going after "pan-blue" politicians, they should refrain from hunting down "pan-green" politicians, is absurd.
For Taiwan's democracy to have a chance to develop in a healthy way, it must have a political culture that does not twist and blacken the judiciary. It must also have a judicial branch that does not fear or bend before political forces. (Editorial abstract -- August 5)
(By S.C. Chang)