Jerome Keating, a retired university professor and recognized scholar on Taiwan, says former Republic of China in-exile President Chen Shui-bian is a victim of political persecution. Chen is serving a 17-year sentence for alleged corruption following a controversial trial.
Keating, author of four books on the political history of Taiwan, has closely followed the prosecution of President Chen from his home in Taipei and is blunt in his criticism of Chen’s trial.
“Americans really don’t know what is going on at ground level in Taiwan.”
“I’ve known Chen when he was Mayor of Taipei, I’ve known him when he was President of Taiwan, and I have also visited him in his jail cell,” said Keating.
“There are so many holes in the whole prosecution that I would say no, he did not get a fair trial.”
Keating elaborated, “Before the trial even began there was a holiday party and both the judges and prosecutors, who are supposed to be adversarial in the courtroom, were mocking Chen in a skit in which both joined hands in merriment in mocking the President.”
“The biggest question was the changing of the judges in the trial,” said Keating. The total impression was they felt that they were not going to get the conviction they wanted with the current judge so they changed judges. There is something fishy going on”.
“When the transition was made [from martial law] in Taiwan, we did not immediately fire all the judges that had been there with the one-party state, and a lot of those, what we call dinosaur judges, are still around, and this could certainly be a reason for the switching of the judges in the Chen trial,” suggested Keating.
“The whole prosecution case totally depends on two people who are the ones who are alleged to have given him bribes. One is Jeffrey Koo, Jr. He is a man known for many corrupt deals and was given a plea bargain to say he gave Chen a bribe. He originally said he did not give him a bribe and then he was cajoled or influenced into saying he gave Chen a bribe, the lion’s share of the money they accused Chen of, and then he would get scot free on many other charges against him. His lawyers have later said yes this is the case, we made basically made a deal where he would give this false testimony in order to be absolved of these other matters.”
“The second person is the woman who was the head of Taipei 101, she again had said it was not a bribe and then the prosecutors kept badgering her and she seems to have been pressured into this,” said Keating.
“So the two people who are the key witnesses against Chen are very questionable and the means of obtaining their testimony is rife with collusion, with pressure, bargaining, with an almost corrupt abuse of power by the prosecutors.”
“When Chen was in jail, the prosecution would not even let Chen meet with his own lawyers without having one of their people present. This is a total abuse of one’s rights as a prisoner, a right to counsel that is unobstructed,” said Keating. “That is another sign of the abuse of power in this case.”
“Chen symbolized and represented the Taiwanese spirit. The Kuomintang, having previously been deprived of its one-party state was still out for vengeance and Chen had been a trial lawyer in the Kaohsiung Incident trial which was one of the beginnings of the breaking of the KMT one-party state. In my mind it is an effort to crush the Taiwanese feelings that they are Taiwanese and have a right to self-determination,” asserted Keating.
“He has certainly been persecuted; I think he has been persecuted for what he represented.”
“Let me point out the double standard,” volunteered Keating. “Ma Ying-jeou was the Mayor of Taipei having an extra half-million U.S. dollars in his bank account. Ma Ying-jeou said he didn’t know how it got there. His secretary admitted to putting it there. I would love to have a secretary who puts a half-million dollars in my bank account. The whole thing sailed through without a glitch. Ma Ying-jeou was never indicted. Ma’s secretary served nine months in jail. I’m sure he didn’t have the jail conditions Chen Shui-bian had. When he came out he had a job waiting for him in City Hall.”
Keating had a special message to the United States public: “As Americans, we are used to things like Nixon’s dirty tricks and things like that, but this is a direct persecution. If you look behind the scenes in all this, you can see the movement of a party that does not want to give up its one party-state status, its privileges, its perks…its retirement plans. Basically, bought loyalties.”
“Part of Chen’s problem is that he doesn’t speak English and therefore could not get his message across to the American people, but, in a way for the United States, Chen represented a trouble spot in that Chen basically stood for Taiwan independence,” concluded Keating.
“The United States has to face the fact that after sixty-seven years, it is still undecided on Taiwan’s status.”