April 29, 2014 TAEDP Press release

When a Trigger-Happy Government Willfully Uses Violence to Threaten Its People, How Can They Ask the People to Renounce Violence?

Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty press release, April 29, 2014

The Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Judicial Reform Foundation, and the Taiwan Association for Innocence today (April 29, 2014) held a press conference in front of the Ministry of Justice, in condemnation of the government decision to carry out the death penalty at a time when people all around the country have risen up in protest of its preposterous policies, and when its approval ratings are at its lowest ever in Taiwanese history. By using the death penalty as a desperate means to salvage public approval, this government has shown to the world once and for all its savage and callous nature.

According to media reports around 19:00 this evening, those condemned to die today include Deng Guo-liang in Taipei, Liu Yen-guo in Taichung, the brothers Du Ming-lang and Du Ming-xiong in Tainan, and Dai Wen-qing in Hualien. Of these five, the Du brothers were originally declared innocent in the court of first instance, and are widely believed to have been wrongfully accused. Their case involves the Cross-Strait Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement, a backroom deal made between the Ma administration and China. The Taiwan Association for Innocence is currently assisting in review of this case. Dai Wen-qing did not have any legal representation during his court of third instance trial, and while incarcerated at Hualien has become a devout Buddhist and repented for his crimes. Liu Yen-guo was originally sentenced to life in prison; in addition, one of the victims in his case testified that Liu was not the murderer, but this testimony was not accepted by the judge. Furthermore, Deng Guo-liang also originally received a life sentence. This shows that the latter two cases were never crimes serious enough to warrant capital punishment.

All dictatorial regimes use killing to establish their authority; this is true of China, North Korea, and Iran. Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay’s statement that she will carry out the death penalty “when necessary” signifies that she is taking these countries as a role model. Although President Ma has repeatedly boasted to the international community that human rights in Taiwan have achieved international standards, the state violence sanctioned by his administration not only falls way short of international standards, it also shows that his administration will not shy away from using human lives to gain public support. This is a blatant display of the authoritarian tendencies of the KMT regime.

Even though the death penalty is currently a topic for debate in Taiwan, both supporters and opponents agree on its limits: If the death penalty must exist, it must only exist so that the most extreme criminals can pay for their crimes in the most extreme way. If the death penalty serves no more a function than the gladiatoral deaths in ancient Rome, existing merely as a diversion tactic, such a punishment has lost all its legitimacy. If the death penalty becomes a method for the government to terrorize, oppress and humiliate its people, it is the duty of the people to rise up against an unjust and violent regime!

In 2001, then-Justice Minister Chen Ding-nan declared that the government would move to abolish the death penalty, thus launching the beginning for abolition of capital punishment in Taiwan. During President Chen Shui-bian’s second term, Taiwan put all its death penalties on hold between 2006 and 2008. Although President Chen faced numerous political upheavals in his term, he never carried out the death penalty to divert attention or to threaten the people. However, since Ma Ying-jeou decided to resume capital punishment in 2010, each time the death penalty was carried out happened to coincide with political crises in which the Ma administration’s approval ratings plummeted (see appendix). This has caused many citizens to question if Ma is sacrificing human lives to avoid facing the real issues. At this point in time, movements against the backroom Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement and nuclear power are in full force; as the people fully recognize the phony face of this regime, the Ma administration has decided to play its old tricks again, sacrificing death row inmates to salvage what is left of its legitimacy. In the government’s eyes, the people of Taiwan are mere bloodthirsty spectators at a Roman gladiatorial battle, making a mockery out of the people’s intelligence. When compared with President Chen’s steadfast moratorium on the death penalty, it is more than obvious that Ma Ying-jeou’s government operates on an entirely different level.

The violent crackdown of protestors at the Executive Yuan on March 23 has been recorded on videos and photos all over the internet. These clearly show that the police used illegal violence to deal with protestors, yet the Ma administration claims that they “cannot find any policemen who perpetrated violence”, so that no-one needs to be held responsible for state violence. During the early hours of April 28, the police used metal batons to attack the heads of peaceful protestors, and high-power water cannon were brought in to deal with people staging a peaceful sit-in. Even when the sit-in protestors were surrounded by wave upon wave of police, they still aimed water cannon indiscriminately at specific people. With such state violence perpetrated by the police in blatant disregard of the law, it is no wonder that the people have lost faith in the government. Yet the government has chosen to respond with the ultimate violent act: Taking human lives to show its authority, and hoping that bloodthirsty citizens will embrace the act, so that public attention will be diverted from its many failures.

The dictatorial regime of the KMT has in the past used the death penalty and extrajudicial executions to slaughter its people. The number of people put to death by this regime is far greater than the number of people killed by death row inmates, yet to this day this incarnate of extreme evil still holds supreme command, controls billions of dollars worth of party holdings, and turns a blind eye to the constitution and legal regulations. We must ask: How can such a regime legitimately take a person’s life in the name of justice? In past cases of death sentences wrongfully carried out, such as Jiang Guo-qing, Su Jian-he, Liu Bing-lang and Zhuang Lin-xun, no-one in the government has had to bear any responsibility. We must ask again: How can a system like this have the right to wield an executioner’s axe, and use its blade against its people?

In the opinion of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, the fact that the Ma administration chose this time to execute death row prisoners is not only an insult to those who wish to abolish the death penalty, it is also an insult to those who support the death penalty. Furthermore, it is not only an insult to those condemned, but also an insult to the victims of their crimes. Luo Ying-shay’s authorization to carry out the sentence is a defacement to the dignity of the Taiwanese people, and has cost the KMT clique its entire legitimacy to use the death penalty.

The people will never submit to a regime which does not shy away from violence, and will never be easily fooled by a unjust government. We will never forget how the KMT regime flouted democratic procedures and trampled on the constitution. We will never forget how the state used its police force as its proxy for unrestrained, illegal violence. We will never forget how our pioneer in democracy Lin Yi-hsiung is using his life in a final harrowing struggle to kindle the self-awarness of the Taiwanese people. We will never forget that the murderer who brutally killed Lin Yi-hsiung’s family some 34 years ago remains free. We will never forget how this dictatorial regime used the death sentence to massacre the Taiwanese elite.

We must also remind Ma Ying-jeou and his administration: Public opinion of an unjust regime will only continue to plummet.

Appendix: A summary of the Ma administration’s use of the death penalty as a diversion tactic

2006~2009: Moratorium on the death penalty in Taiwan.

Nov. 2009: KMT legislator Wu Yu-sheng’s extramarital affair became public, and his approval ratings plummeted amidst public ridicule.

Feb. 2010: At a legislative inquiry session, Wu Yu-sheng demanded the execution of all 44 prisoners on death row at the time.

April 2010: Controversy surrounding the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement resulted in an escalation of criticism.

April 30, 2010: Then-Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu authorized the execution of four death row inmates.

January and February 2011: Proceedings into the wrongful execution of Jiang Guo-qing were reopened.

March 4, 2011: Tseng Yung-fu authorized the execution of five death row inmates.

June 2012: A series of scandals erupted implicating then-Anti-Corruption Committee member Lin Yi-shih of corruption and extortion.

November 2012: A major corruption scandal involving Chen Yu-zhen of the Taiwan High Prosecutor’s Office erupted.

Early December 2012: A series of spree killings in Tainan caused widespread apprehension and tension, which was further fueled by a soaring unemployment rate, a staggering economy, and the government’s inability to maintain public safety.

December 21, 2012: Tseng Yung-fu authorized the execution of six death row inmates.

February and March 2013: Dual murders and a decapitation case in Bali, New Taipei City received widespread attention.

March 2013: A corruption scandal involving implicating Taipei City Council member and Ma Ying-jeou confidante Lai Su-ru erupted. Public criticism of the government escalated amidst the revelation of multiple scandals.

April 19, 2013: The Ministry of Justice moved former President Chen Shui-bian to another prison. On the same day, Tseng Yung-fu authorized the execution of six death row inmates.