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Corruption Cases Prove a Test for Democracy
Taiwan is reeling from a string of corruption allegations against high-ranking officials and members of the first family. But the political animosity between the pan-green and pan-blue camps means that although misconduct certainly should be revealed and dealt with, those digging up scandals are simply making wild accusations that may well hurt the innocent.
No one knows the accuracy of the allegations made so far. Wild accusations will certainly harm morale and lead to the development of a risk-averse culture within the government, which may paralyze its operations. All-out attacks on someone who has made a mistake will only push things to the extreme, and that may affect judicial independence. Exposing corruption requires a responsible approach and hard evidence, for too much hearsay may affect how people look at genuine scandals.
In addition to quickly investigating corruption scandals, prosecutors and investigators must punish rumormongers or those who deliberately make unfounded accusations.
That the opposition parties have ulterior motives with their attacks was made abundantly clear at the plenary session of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) Central Standing Committee and the mass rally organized by the People First Party (PFP) on June 3. Recalling President Chen Shui-bian, holding a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet or having Chen step down voluntarily will not bring about clean governance.
It is clear that KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou is being controlled by the party's old guard. There has still been no progress in the case of the KMT's ill-gotten assets, so how can we expect the KMT to perform better than the DPP? The behavior of the opposition parties continues to tarnish Taiwan's image.
After all, Chen has recently taken a number of unprecedented reform measures which show that he has engaged in deeper reflection over the corruption scandals. This is a step in the right direction. However, the public is still concerned about how deeply the first family is involved in all of these allegations. It remains to be seen whether Chen's son-in-law Chao Chien-ming is going to drag the whole first family down with him.
To deal with this issue, the first family has to distance themselves from Chao. A dedicated politician must be ready to make sacrifices. Even if it does not mean sacrificing one's life, it does require sacrificing one's privacy, and sometimes relations with friends or relatives.
When there is a conflict between national and family interests, national interests should come first. Chen should thus encourage Chao to cooperate with law enforcement officials, who are upholding judicial independence. Although everyone is equal before the law, Chao's unique status means that the public's concerns must be taken into consideration.
Not only that, both the government and opposition must remember the Chinese Communist Party is sitting next door and looking with hungry eyes at Taiwan, so they must avoid any rash action that plays into Beijing's hands.
Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.
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