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May 27, 2017

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Who's afraid of the Control Yuan?

There was no separation of powers in imperial China. The emperor was the law-giver, supreme enforcer of laws and head of government. Most of the emperors had their prime ministers who were charged with the governance of the empire, and from time to time, poor or corrupt administrations gave rise to complaints from among the discontented or oppressed subjects that, more often than not, never reached the imperial court. In time, an office of imperial censors and remonstrators was created to hear and investigate the complaints. They would recommend punishment after they found officials at any level, including prime ministers, derelict of duty. Punishment, including the death penalty, would be meted out with the approval of the emperor. Government officials who did not do their duty feared imperial censors and remonstrators, many of them men of probity.

That was the reason why Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Chinese republic, made five separate powers in the constitution he wished to write for modern China. In particular, he wanted the power of control to carry on the work of imperial censors and remonstrators. The five-power constitution was adopted by the National Assembly on Dec. 25, 1946. The Constitution of the Republic of China, which he founded, was promulgated on Jan. 1, 1957 and went into force on December 25 of the same year. That constitution, with amendments, is in force in Taiwan.

The Control Yuan, according to the Constitution as amended, is still the highest control organ of the country and exercises the powers of impeachment, censure and auditing. It was entrusted with the power of consent or confirmation over the appointments of the president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan and grand justices. That power was handed over to the Legislative Yuan or Parliament. Members of the Control Yuan are now responsible for hearing and investigating complaints from among the people, proposing corrective measures and forwarding them to the Executive Yuan, or the Cabinet, and its agencies, and directing their attention to effecting improvements. Of course, the ombudsmen may start investigation on their own accord to ascertain whether or note any public functionaries are guilty of violation of law or neglect of duty. Before the constitutional amendment, they might impeach all public office holders, including the president and vice president of the republic. They still can, save the head of state and his deputy. Their power of auditing is exercised by the auditor-general, who heads the Ministry of Auditing.

Constitutional amendments de-fanged the Control Yuan. Now, ombudsmen can just propose corrective measures and forward them to the government agencies that are found derelict of duty or in violation of laws. If no corrective measures are taken, they may institute an impeachment. When an impeachment is adopted, it has to be referred to the Commission on the Discipline of Public Functionaries under the Judicial Yuan. The commission shall hear the other side of the story and decide to discipline the errant public office holders. It may fire or demote those who it rules are derelict of duty. But no disciplinary action can be taken if those to be punished are already retired. In case officials are found in violation of laws, ombudsmen can refer them to a court of law.

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