Several dozen members of Falun Gong (aka Falun Dafa) protested the arrival of Chen Zhenggao (陳政高), the governor of Liaoning Province, in Taichung this afternoon. The protesters shouted, “Chen Zhenggao, you’ve been accused, stop persecuting Falun Gong” (陳政高，你被告了，停止迫害法輪功). According to a Falun Gong website 409 Falun Gong practitioners have died as a result of persecution in Liaoning Province. Continue reading
The death penalty has once again been in the spotlight in Taiwan over the past few days. The issue was brought to the fore after a man confessed* to a crime for which another man was executed in 1997. The wrongful conviction and execution of Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) was uncovered by a Control Yuan investigation in May last year. At that time the Control Yuan censured the Ministry of Defense over the case and said there were seven major flaws in the trial.
Since new developments in the case that resulted in the wrongful execution resurfaced there have been apologies issued by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and President Ma Ying-jeou. About 30 officials involved in the arrest, trial and execution of Chiang are now facing administrative and criminal investigation. Those being questioned include two former defense ministers. However, a statute of limitations may prevent those involved from being punished. Continue reading
I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today. The letter suggests holding a referendum on combining the presidential and legislative elections. I believe this is one of several referendums that could be held in conjunction with the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections. The most important one would be a referendum to amend the birdcage provisions of the Referendum Law.
While the idea of combining the presidential and legislative elections (“KMT mulls idea of combined legislative, presidential election,” Jan. 18, page 3) is good in theory, the means of achieving it should respect democratic principles.
With the legislative election now less than a year away, it is not the time to start changing the rules. Furthermore, any changes in the dates of elections that involve extending term limits would seriously harm voters’ democratic rights. Continue reading
Freedom House released its Freedom in the World 2011 report yesterday. The report’s key finding was that freedom declined globally for the fifth consecutive year. Freedom House noted that authoritarian regimes like those in China, Egypt, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela continued to step up repressive measures with little significant resistance from the democratic world.
Taiwan’s ranking was unchanged from last year. Taiwan scored one for political rights and two for civil liberties to retain its status as “free”. Taiwan’s scores were the same as South Korea and Japan. The Taipei Times has some comments about Taiwan from a researcher at Freedom House.
“Taiwan remained one of Asia’s strongest democracies,” Sarah Cook, Asia research analyst and assistant editor at Freedom House, told the Taipei Times by e-mail yesterday.
“Municipal elections held [on Nov. 27] were widely viewed as free and fair, despite a shooting at a rally the evening before the polls,” Cook said. Continue reading
On 12 November 2010 the High Court found the Hsichih Trio not guilty of charges of murder and robbery. Many hoped this finally marked the end of the case that has seen three men spend almost twenty years of their lives dragged through the courts and facing the death penalty. However, this week the prosecutors filed another appeal in the case again taking it to the Supreme Court.
The prosecutors’ case is based on confessions extracted under torture. There is no physical evidence that the three accused were at the scene of the crime. Despite this the case has been the subject of 13 trials and retrials. The entire case highlights multiple problems in Taiwan’s justice system.
Since the KMT returned to power in 2008 President Ma Ying-jeou has on numerous occassions cited the importance of judicial reform. Yet, apart from the removal of a few corrupt judges, there seems to have been no progress and judicial rights have gone backwards. The cases involving former President Chen Shui-bian have also highlighted many procedural problems in the justice system. There is also concern that the verdicts may have been influenced by political pressure in the lead up to the five cities election. (See my letter to the Taipei Times raising questions about judicial independence.)
2010 has also seen the return of the death penalty in Taiwan with four men executed on 30 April ending a four and a half year unofficial moratorium. Unless more substantial action is taken on judicial reform and the abolition of the death penalty any claims that the Ma government makes about improvements in human rights will have no substance.
Amnesty International released a public statement on the Hsichih Trio case on 10 December 2010 which was also Human Rights Day. The full text of the statement is below.
While there was no clear victor in the elections, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have more to celebrate than the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the DPP will be disappointed that they didn’t pick up an extra mayoral seat, they did boost their overall vote and showed that they have a very good chance of winning the presidential election in 2012. Continue reading