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Cablegate: Media Reaction: President Chen Shui-Bian's Future

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #4141/01 3520830
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180830Z DEC 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3465
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6104
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 7333

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 004141

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: PRESIDENT CHEN SHUI-BIAN'S FUTURE


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
coverage December 16-18 on First Lady Wu Shu-chen's trial on
corruption charges in the Taipei District Court Friday where she
faint during the proceedings; a possible cooperation between the KMT
nativist faction of Taipei city councilors with their DPP colleagues
in the upcoming election of Taipei's council speaker and vice
speaker; and a United Daily News poll regarding the approval ratings
of 23 mayors and county magistrates in Taiwan.

In terms of editorials and commentaries, two editorials implied that
President Chen Shui-bian will be able to finish his term of office.
An editorial in the limited-circulation, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" said that the Council of Grand
Justices has been subservient to the authorities, and chances are
that the Grand Justices would acquiesce to the demand raised by DPP
legislators to give President Chen Shui-bian permanent immunity from
prosecution regardless of what wrong he may have done while in
office. The pro-unification "United Daily News" mentioned in its
editorial that the incident in which First Lady Wu Shu-chen fainted
and was sent to the hospital during her trial at the Taipei District
Court on December 15 has an impact on the justice of the trial. The
editorial added that prosecutors might not be able to complete the
Presidential Office Allowance for State Affairs case before
President Chen Shui-bian steps down. End summary.

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2. President Chen's Future

A) "Can Grand Justices Uphold the Independence of the Court?"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] said in an editorial (12/16):

"Taiwan has a constitutional court, which is the Council of Grand
Justices. All grand justices are appointed by the president, subject
to confirmation by the Legislative Yuan. Now the grand justices are
being asked to give the man who gave them their job permanent
immunity from prosecution regardless of what wrong he may have done
while in office.

"The request was made by all but three of the 86 lawmakers of
President Chen's Democratic Progressive Party on the eve of first
lady Wu Shu-chen's trial on corruption charges. The legislators, who
asked the grand justices to review and explain a Constitutional
article on presidential immunity, also wanted an injunction to
suspend her trial. The Constitution in Article 52 says: The
President shall not, without having been recalled, or having been
relieved of his functions, be liable to criminal prosecution unless
he is charged with having committed an act of rebellion or treason.
The lawmakers of the ruling party want the grand justices to explain
whether the president "shall not ... be liable to criminal
prosecution" after he is "relieved of his functions" and whether his
immunity from prosecution shields him against criminal investigation
and subpoena for appearance in court to give testimony. ...

"Should the grand justices go along, all charges against President
Chen would have to be dropped and he would be immune from
prosecution after he bows out on May 20, 2008. He could not be
subpoenaed to testify in court to substantiate the charges brought
against the first lady. If the injunction is issued, the Taipei
district court won't be able to hand down the verdict on her before
her husband leaves office. The grand justices may even rule the
first lady shares presidential immunity from prosecution, and then
the court may be forced to dismiss the case against her.

"Taiwan's constitutional court has been subservient to the powers
that be. The chances are that the grand justices would acquiesce to
the demand. We wonder if there are enough grand justices to uphold
the independence of our constitutional court."

B) "The Impact on the Justice of the Trial Caused by Wu Shu-Chen's
Standing Trial and Being Sent to the Hospital"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized that (12/16):

"... The situation shows that the trial of the case [of the
Presidential Office Allowance for State Affairs] cannot be completed
before Chen Shui-bian finishes his term of office. The problem is
not embedded in the dispute regarding the President's immunity on
criminal charges but the variable of [First Lady] Wu Shu-chen's
physical health. Some people originally guessed that Wu Shu-chen
might ask the court for a day off yesterday, but the subsequent
developments showed that when something happens to Wu Shu-chen, the
biggest impact is to the justice of trial. Perhaps, the trial
proceedings might resume in the future, when Wu Shu-chen feels that
her physical condition allows it, but no one can be sure that she
will not once again be sent to the hospital in the middle of the
session. Hence, we can assert that the trial cannot proceed
smoothly. ..."


WANG

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