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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Indictment of First Lady Wu Shu-Chen

VZCZCXYZ0013
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3778/01 3100858
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060858Z NOV 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2926
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5894
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 7113

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003778

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - DAVID FIRESTEIN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: INDICTMENT OF FIRST LADY WU SHU-CHEN


1. Summary: Taiwan's dailies gave significant reporting and
editorial coverage November 4-7 to the indictments of First Lady Wu
Shu-chen and three presidential aides last Friday, and President
Chen Shui-bian's televised address to the Taiwan people Sunday
evening. All the major Chinese-language dailies of November 6
front-paged President Chen's remarks that he will step down if his
wife is found guilty in an initial trial on corruption charges. A
"China Times" poll conducted November 3 found that 53.8% of those
polled said President Chen should resign over the corruption
scandal, while 16.7% of respondents said Chen should stay in office
till his term ends, and 29.5% of them declined comment. According
to a "United Daily News" poll conducted November 3, 60% of the
respondents said President Chen should resign, while 21% said Chen
should not, and 17% of respondents did not answer the question.
Following President Chen's "Report to the People" Sunday evening, an
"Apple Daily" poll indicated November 6 that 66% of the respondents
did not believe Chen's explanation.

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2. Editorials in Taiwan newspapers are divided along each paper's
political stand. The pan-Green-aligned newspapers basically
accepted President Chen's clarification and said that a court
judgment on the presidential allowance for state affairs case will
provide a foundation for the decision of Chen's political
responsibility. The pan-Blue-inclined papers, however, lashed out
at Chen and said a president who is corrupt and who lies is no
longer entitled to the presidency. End summary.

A) "Let's Await Judicial Judgment on the State Affairs Fund Case"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 600,000]
editorialized (11/6):

"... We believe that, even following President Chen's earnest and
sincere clarification, people who believe in him will continue to do
so, while those who do not believe in him will remain unchanged as
well. But it is a public consensus that Taiwan's political,
economic, and social stability must be maintained, so those who do
not believe in Chen must not appeal to mass movements outside the
system again. Since everyone believes that, judging from Prosecutor
Eric Chen's indictment, [Taiwan's] judiciary is worth hoping for,
then why don't [we] await a court judgment on the presidential
account for state affairs case?"

B) "The President Must Make His Case"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (11/5):

"... After reading the indictment, it seems that [Prosecutor] Eric
Chen is genuinely dealing with this case purely on the basis of
evidence and standing by the letter of the law. ... The
prosecutor's investigation suggests that the president did not use
the fund for the legitimate purposes that he has claimed, which is
the real issue here. To be more precise, the prosecutor found that
four out of the six secret missions for which the president had
claimed reimbursement were non-existent. ... With so much at stake
for the nation, President Chen must make his case. If he is telling
the truth, he needs to provide proof immediately."

C) "Chen Lets Court Resolve Crisis"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (11/6):

"... The indictments against Wu Shu-chen et al for 'corruption and
forgery of documents' were a heavy blow to the authority and
credibility of President Chen, but did not constitute a 'guilty'
judgment or 'prove' that Chen is a corrupt president or that the DPP
is a corrupt administration. ... The question of whether President
Chen is factually or legally guilty of graft or corruption must be
the essential foundations of any demand that the president take
responsibility for corruption on gross misuse of power by resigning.
In our view, the question of political responsibility cannot be
answered until the question of legal or criminal responsibility is
determined and before a reasonably comprehensive account of what
actually happened is revealed.

"Hence, we remain strongly opposed to any 'third' recall motion
filed by the opposition KMT and PFP and deeply regret the decision
by the pan-green opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union to declare its
support for such a third recall, which is nothing more than another
expression of cutthroat political struggle and will neither promote
justice or democracy. ... Whether our citizens will believe
President Chen, we believe his decision to accept the court judgment
on his wife will then provide a foundation, albeit imperfect, for
the decision of his personal political responsibility. We are
confident that history and the judiciary will indeed confirm
President Chen's innocence."
D) "[Chen] Should Be Held Responsible for Political Upheavals Even
If He Is Not Involved in Corruption"

The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000]
editorialized (11/6):

"... During his 'Report to the People' yesterday evening, President
Chen continued to seek to rebut the statements in the indictment,
scheming to find every linguistic loophole he could. He still
failed to grasp the fact that it does not matter any more whether
the indictment is comprehensive or accurate or not; instead, [he
must realize that] the key lies in the fact that his family problems
have caused severe damage [to society], including recurring
political upheavals, plunging government prestige, ruined
presidential authority, and a crisis of confidence in public
authority. Also, the president's image and leadership have fallen
apart; the DPP has suffered severe damage; those who support the
party are humiliated, and all the Taiwan people feel outraged. Even
if it is true that the President is not involved in corruption, he
should resign to quell the political turmoil and let his people rest
to mend the wound, simply because he has done so much harm to the
nation. ..."

E) "Abuse of Law and Power Is Abuse of Law and Power; Stop Making up
Excuses!"

The pro-status quo "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (11/6):

"Chen Shui-bian 'reported to the people,' saying that he will step
down once Wu Shu-chen is found guilty in an initial trial. Such an
announcement was of course aimed at removing the imminent pressure
forcing him to resign, but a more direct message Chen meant to
convey was: 'I will not step down!' Chen even pushed his battle
line to the initial trial! During the one-and-a-half hour 'Report
to the People,' Chen repeatedly argued about 'different perceptions'
and 'flawed procedures.' To put it in plain language, Chen has not
only failed to clarify the charges [against him] of violating the
law and abuse of power but has openly acknowledged that he has used
his presidency to abuse his power. We must say that the more Chen
talked, the more it proved that he should step down. ...

"Any president who believes he has that many makeshift measures and
so many difficulties that he cannot talk about is in reality abusing
his power! The development of the presidential state affairs fund
case so far has clearly exposed a president who lacks an accurate
understanding of the constitutional system and the role of the
president, and who shows total disregard for the rule of law and the
supervisory authorities. Chen's performance in this case alone
would mean that he is no longer entitled to be president!"

F) "All Lies: A President Involved in Corruption Should Not Be
Pardoned; A President Who Lies Is Particularly Unforgivable!"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (11/6):

"... The DPP's request that Chen make clarification after the case
was closed is in fact akin to forcing him to lie in public again.
Such a move is naturally not conducive for Chen to save his own
credibility and that of the DPP. When a president must argue 'I am
not a liar,' can he still look his people in the eye? How much
truth can the people read from his lips? The remainder of Chen's
term of office is one-and-a-half years, but the judicial procedures
are very slow. Chen claimed that he would step down once [he] was
found guilty in an initial trial; it is akin to telling the public
that he will not plead guilty and resign. A nation's law finds it
impossible to pardon this corrupt president, and the Taiwan people
must punish this unworthy politician who is full of lies and has no
credibility at all!"

G) "DPP Must Break with Chen in Order to Survive"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] commented in an editorial (11/6):

"With the indictment of first lady Wu Shu-chen on corruption
charges, the Chen Shui-bian government plunged into uncertainty. No
one can doubt that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is
facing the worst crisis since it was founded 20 years ago. ... Last
night, President Chen - speaking in a televised address - tried to
defend himself against the charges in the indictment. However, the
explanation he offered can hardly convince those who hear it. ...
It's time that DPP woke up and realized how unwise and disastrous it
would be to continue supporting a corrupt leader. Chen's
misbehavior has caused the DPP's popularity to sink to new lows and
had a significant effect on the party's ability to win electoral
battles. Polls taken in the past few days show that support for the
party's candidates in the upcoming elections have fallen further
behind their opposition counterparts. ... However, those at the top
level of the party and most legislators of the party still insist
Chen should stay on, arguing that he is innocent. The DPP is
certainly doomed if these politicians keep their heads buried in the
sand."

WANG

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