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Mar 13, 2007

Tuesday morning headlines

On Taiwanese television this Tuesday morning, a few political topics were taking up most of the headlines.

KMT legislator Lin te-fu (林德福) noted a recent Ministry of Education National Security Council document which left a space before printing President Chen (陳總統). This was a practice that the KMT used to show respect for Chiang Kai-shek or Sun Yast-sen. Premier Su Chen-chang (蘇貞昌) has said Chen had no intention of people "turning him into a god" and that nothing like this would ever be intentionally placed in any publication from any ministry again.

It's not clear to me whether or not the National Security Council's report intentionally left the space. The video I saw kept showing footage from one sentence where this had happened, and I'm increasingly convinced it only occured once in the document despite the implication from the reports that all over the place.

A second topic that got attention was the fact that Former Tainan deputy mayor Hsu Yang-ming (許陽明) was indicted on suspicion of embezzling municipal funds, and did not indict Tainan mayor Hsu Tian-tsair (許添財).

The Tainan District Prosecutor's office said Hsu Tian-tsair was not guilty because "used any receipts fraudulently to reimburse funds from his special allowance funds." They added that of the half of the allowance fund that did not require accounting oversight (receipts), it was impossible to probe if it had been spent on private or public matters and therefore it was impossible to probe.

That puts the the Tainan District Prosecutor's office in a different boat than the Taipei District Prosecutor's office, since Ma Ying-jeou was seemingly charged for something Tsu Tian-tsair got off for. The KMT predictably said this clearly shows Ma was improperly indicted. For his part, Hsu Yang-ming said that because he didn't put money directly into his account, he wouldn't be charged even using the same standard as Ma was charged with.

The Tainan office came out swinging in their defense, saying that former administrators should not be held accountable for what is clearly a defect of the system (i.e., a legal slush fund). [My personal opinion is that while this clearly is a systematic problem and these guys all thought putting the money in their account was OK, there's still a law against it. It can't be ignored just for the benefit of these administrators, but throwing almost everyone who's been a mayor or commissioner for the last few decades in jail would be a real pain too.]

For his part, Taipei District Chief Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) said the difference in judgement of the two cases stemmed from whether the special allowance fund had been fully spent or not. He was quoted as saying that the Tainan office believed the special allowance to essentially be an allowance [I believe he's implying it could be spent in any way], which was in fact different than the Taipei office's conclusion; but that the difference in opinion on this point would not mean that the conclusion of the two investigations would be different. He added any further disagreements would be decided by a higher authority.

Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) pointed out that disagreements among prosecutors or legal experts was normal. He encouraged respect for the legal system, implying politicians shouldn't be after short-term votes at the expense of public trust in the system.

Less important topics included Hong Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) complaining how hard it would be for her to get the signatures required to run for chairman and the rather predictable striking down in the legislature of the name changes to Chunghwa Post to Taiwan Post by the KMT and PFP.

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