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September 25, 2017

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Can Chen Shui-bian be pardoned?

Political pundits are making suggestions that former President Chen Shui-bian be pardoned to soften the deepening antagonism of the Democratic Progressive Party against President Ma Ying-jeou's Kuomintang in the aftermath of the devastating Sunflower student movement. Demands for transparency in the conclusion of cross-strait agreements notwithstanding, the student activists just wanted to reawaken the distrust of Ma the Chinese mainlander and reassert Taiwan independence, of which Chen in prison for corruption and graft is a totem, by storming the Executive Yuan and occupying the Legislative Yuan for 24 days.

Ma's pardon certainly will mitigate the increasingly sharp confrontation between the two parties, though it can't lower the antagonism. But he can't and shouldn't exculpate Chen Shui-bian, whose corruption and graft trial hasn't been completed.

The president has the exclusive prerogative to pardon any criminal, but no pardon should be granted unless that criminal repents what he or she has done. Chen has never repented, and instead claimed all the money he had raked in would be used to establish his republic of Taiwan.

Is Chen going to retract his claim and repent?

While Chen was still in detention, he alleged that a U.S. military government has occupied Taiwan since the end of the Second World War, and continues to occupy the island even today. He pleaded with the U.S. Military Court of Appeals in Washington to order the nonexistent American military government of Taiwan to instruct President Ma to immediately release him and countermand his sentence of life imprisonment. In an desperate attempt to escape imprisonment, he claimed that during his two terms as president, he was aware of the existence of the U.S. military government, and carried out its orders. He declared he was in fact an agent of that military government and the colonial governor of Taiwan for the United States, receiving orders from the chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan while he served as president of the Republic of China for eight years.

Roger C. S. Lin, a Chinese American lawyer who filed Chen's appeal with the U.S. military appellate court, helped organize a Taiwan civil government on February 2, 2008 to pave the way for his release. The civil government claims the right to rule Taiwan in collaboration with the American military government as part of the United States, which Lin claims still legally occupies the island. Cheng Chung-mo, a former vice president of the Judicial Yuan, heads the civil government, which held a world congress on April 25, 2010, and opened an office in Washington, D.C. on September 8, 2010.

Of course, Chen was not prosecuted for his claim. As a matter of fact, he should be tried for treason, but no legal action has been taken against him. Can Ma pardon a self-proclaimed traitor?

Though not charged, Chen is responsible for tearing Taiwan asunder. To win elections for his Democratic Progressive Party, he stoked the feud between the Hoklo-Hakka majority and the minority of Chinese mainlanders, those immigrants who came to Taiwan from China after 1945 and their offspring, who were born and brought up on the island. His creeping independence policy was instrumental in promoting a "hate-China" campaign that divided the people into two groups, one for Taiwan independence and the other for eventual unification with China. Taiwan lost the communal harmony it had tried hard to achieve over the past six decades. Come election time, friends become foes and even families are divided. That is a crime against the country, unpunishable according to Taiwan's statute law, albeit Chen is unpardonable just for this reason alone.

President Ma and anybody who succeeds him, in particular the Democratic Progressive Party standard bearer who is most likely to win the presidential election of 2016, cannot and should not pardon Chen Shui-bian, unless he repents and asks for mercy..

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