New Taiwan: Ilha Formosa
The Website for Taiwan's History, Present, and Future
Click Here for the Taiwan Communique

Information Taiwan's history:

Important events in Taiwan's history

Back to: Taiwan, Ilha Formosa home page

On August 1st 2011, a group of international scholars wrote a letter to President Ma Ying-jeou, expressing concern about the indictment of former President Lee Teng-hui." The letter was published in the Taipei Times on August 2nd 2011, and an editorial appeared in the Liberty Times on August 6th 2011

This is the eighth letter by the group. Earlier, the scholars had expressed their concerns about the case against former DPP officials on the 36,000 missing documents , and the proposed ECFA agreement with China , while between November 2008 and November 2009,the group expressed concern about the erosion of justice and democracy in five letters to the Justice Minister and to President Ma Ying-jeou.

Concerns about indictment of former President Lee Teng-hui

"Stating that your government abides by "judicial independence" is therefore not enough"

August 1st 2011

President Ma Ying-jeou

Office of the President

Dear President Ma,

We the undersigned, international scholars, analysts and writers from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, have for many years been keen observers of political developments in Taiwan. We were delighted when Taiwan made its transition to democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and we continue to care deeply for the country and its future as a free and democratic nation-state.

However, during the past three years many of us have felt it necessary to address publicly our concerns to you about the erosion of justice and democracy in Taiwan, most recently in April 2011 regarding the charges of the "36,000 missing documents" against a number of prominent former DPP officials. We raised these issues as international supporters of Taiwan's democracy.

At this time we express our deep concern about the charges against former president Lee Teng-hui, often referred to as "the father of Taiwan's democracy", who was indicted on June 30th on charges of allegedly channeling US$7.8 million from secret diplomatic funds into the Taiwan Research Institute. These charges and their timing raise a number of questions which are related both to the case itself and the integrity of the judicial system in Taiwan.

First, why did the prosecutors decide to pursue these charges at this time? The events allegedly occurred in 1994-1995, some 16 years ago. We have difficulty believing that the prosecutors discovered the evidence only recently, particularly in view of the fact that key evidence cited by the prosecutors was dismissed by a Supreme Court ruling in 2006 in a case involving former NSB chief accountant Hsu Ping-chiang, who was charged in connection with the missing diplomatic funds. Are these charges perhaps more directly related to the former president's outspokenness on current political issues, and in particular to the upcoming presidential election?

The second issue is one of evenhandedness: The problem with the administration of secret diplomatic funds appears to be systemic, primarily due to the lack of transparency associated with the funds and vague guidelines for their use. Hence, if the former president is now charged, should fairness not demand that there be investigations, and charges, against other high officials who served at the same time, such as the vice-president, prime minister and provincial governor, who had similar discretionary funds available to them?

The third issue relates to the impartiality of the judicial system. Since November 2008 there have been a number of indictments and charges against former DPP officials and others who were and are critical of your government. The case against former President Lee appears to be part of a deeply disturbing trend to use the judiciary against political opponents. While there is an obvious need to uphold the law in a democracy, this needs to be done fairly and evenhandedly, with no hint or appearance of any partiality.

Mr. President, as head of state you bear overall responsibility for the state of affairs in Taiwan. In democratic systems, proper checks and balances between the executive, legislature and judiciary are of the utmost importance. The executive and the legislature have a responsibility to exercise oversight and to balance activism in the judiciary, just as the judiciary serves a similar role with regard to the executive and legislature.

Stating that your government abides by "judicial independence" is therefore not enough. It is essential that all participants in the judicial process: prosecutors, judges, and lawyers, are fully imbued with the basic principle that the judiciary is scrupulously impartial and not given to any partisan preferences.

We, as members of the international scholarly community, are left with the impression that the indictments and practices of the judiciary in Taiwan during the past three years reflect a judicial system that is increasingly influenced by political considerations. There has been a regression in the accomplishments of Taiwan's momentous democratization of the 1990s and 2000s. As good friends of Taiwan we are deeply unsettled by this. It undermines Taiwan's international image as a free and democratic nation.

Mr. President, we therefore urge you and your government to ensure that the judicial system is held to the highest standards of objectivity and fairness. Taiwan has many challenges ahead of it, and it cannot afford the political divisions created by the use of the judicial system for political purposes.

Respectfully yours,


Names of those who joined later are marked with a *

  1. Thomas Bartlett, Honorary Research Associate, History Program, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
  2. Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Washington DC
  3. Jean Pierre Cabestan, professor and head, Department of Government and International Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University
  4. Gordon G. Chang, author, "The Coming Collapse of China."
  5. Wen-yen Chen, Professor Emeritus, University of the District of Columbia and former President, North American Taiwanese Professors Association
  6. Stéphane Corcuff, Associate Professor of Political Science, China and Taiwan Studies, University of Lyon, France
  7. Michael Danielsen, Chairman, Taiwan Corner, Copenhagen, Denmark
  8. June Teufel Dreyer, Professor of Political Science, University of Miami, Florida
  9. Edward Friedman, Professor of Political Science and East Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison *
  10. Norman W. Getsinger, U.S. Foreign Service (Retired), The George Washington University Graduate Program, Washington DC
  11. Terri Giles, Executive Director, Formosa Foundation, Los Angeles
  12. Mark Harrison, Senior Lecturer, Head of the Chinese School of Asian Languages and Studies, University of Tansmania, Australia
  13. Stephen R. Halsey, Assistant Professor of History, University of Miami, Florida
  14. Michael Rand Hoare, Emeritus Reader at the University of London, Great Britain
  15. Christopher R. Hughes, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, London
  16. Thomas G. Hughes, Former chief of staff to the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI), Washington DC
  17. Bruce Jacobs, Professor of Asian Languages and Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  18. Richard C. Kagan, Professor Emeritus of History, Hamline University, St. Paul Minnesota. Author, "Taiwan's Statesman, Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia"
  19. Jerome F. Keating, Associate Professor, National Taipei University (Ret.). Author, "Island in the Stream, a quick case study of Taiwan's complex history" and other works on Taiwan's history
  20. Hon. David Kilgour, former Member Parliament and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific (2002-2003), Canada
  21. André Laliberté, Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada
  22. Perry Link, Professor Emeritus of Asian Studies, Princeton University
  23. Daniel Lynch, Associate Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California
  24. Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
  25. The Very Rev. Bruce McLeod, former president, Canadian Council of Churches and former moderator, the United Church of Canada
  26. Donald Rodgers, Associate Professor of Political Science, Austin College, Texas
  27. Terence Russell, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Manitoba, Canada
  28. Michael Scanlon, Associate Professor (Retired), Shih Chien University, Kaohsiung County, Taiwan
  29. Christian Schafferer, Associate Professor, Department of International Trade, Overseas Chinese Institute; Chair Austrian Association of East Asian Studies, Editor Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia, Vienna, Austria
  30. David Schak, Adjunct Professor of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University, Australia
  31. Michael Stainton, York Center for Asia Research, Toronto, Canada
  32. Peter Tague, Professor of Law, Georgetown University, Washington DC
  33. Ross Terrill, Fairbank Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA ; author of "The New Chinese Empire" and "Mao"
  34. Rev. Milo L. Thornberry. Author, "Fireproof Moth, A missionary in Taiwan's White Terror"
  35. John J. Tkacik Jr., US Foreign Service (Retired), and independent commentator, Washington DC
  36. Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
  37. Gerrit van der Wees, Editor Taiwan Communiqué, Washington DC
  38. Joseph Weidenholzer, Chair, Institute of Social and Societal Policy, Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Austria
  39. Michael Yahuda, Professor Emeritus, the London School of Economics & Visiting Scholar, George Washington University
  40. Stephen Yates, President of DC Asia Advisory and former Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs