The Council of Grand Justices is scheduled to meet tomorrow and Wednesday to reach a decision on whether to issue an injunction halting the current trial of first lady Wu Shu-chen. Grand justices are also expected to rule on the constitutionality of the questioning of President Chen Shui-bian by prosecutors in connection with the corruption case involving his wife. The president, according to the Constitution, is immune from "criminal investigation," and prosecutors, who indicted the first lady on November 3, have questioned her husband twice.
As a matter of fact, President Chen agreed to be questioned and admitted his wife did borrow receipts and bills from friends and relatives to claim a NT$14.8 million reimbursement from a pubic fund under his control for the conduct of "affairs of state," but he asserted all the money was spent on his "secret diplomacy," the details of which he cannot reveal. His deputy secretary-general Cho Yung-tai requested that the grand justices rule it is unconstitutional to question the president at all, let alone a court requirement to review the "secret diplomacy" file, and end what is known as the trial of the century once and for all.
Of course, the council does not have to take the decision right at the end of the two-day meeting. Because of complicated political implications, it may take weeks or even months to come up with a ruling for or against the constitutionality of the trial, with the first lady in absentia most of the time for reasons of poor health.
Nobody envies the grand justices in their job to make such a ruling. First of all, they were all appointed by President Chen. It would be personally difficult for them to turn against him. They don't want to be called "ungrateful dogs" by letting the current trial go on to its apparently logical end of reaching a guilty verdict. The president has vowed to step down if the first lady is proven guilty. Now that he has admitted some of the receipts and bills were "borrowed," his wife has to be convicted of "forgery" at the very least, which is a serious felony.
If he should choose to keep his word, President Chen might face an immediate indictment for corruption, unless he could make his legal successor, Vice President Annette Lu in this case, agree to give him a pardon just as President Gerald Ford did for Richard M. Nixon. Should she refuse to pardon him, Chen might wind up in prison like former South Korean president Roh Tae Wu.
All this is quite clear to President Chen. That is why he is fighting back every inch of the way.
Perhaps in desperation, President Chen has even resorted to the time-honored practice of "gao yang zhuang" in China, which literally means "filing complaints with foreigners." He complained about his predicament to CNN of the United States before the grand justices were set to meet.
The Opium War opened China to the West. There were compradors who always "filed complaints with foreigners" to get what they wanted from the Chinese authorities.
One top beneficiary of such complaints after China was made a republic in 1912 was none other than Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. His wife, the legendary Madame Mayling Chiang, made complaints against Japanese aggression on China with the Americans so successfully as to make President Franklin D. Roosevelt support her husband's war of resistance.
The Pacific War started with Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, but long before that, President Roosevelt had decided to go to war with Japan anyway. That decision resulted in part from Madame Chiang's persuasive complaints against the brutal Japanese Imperial Army that among other things, committed the rape of Nanjing, in which at least 200,000 men, women and children were killed at the end of 1938.
Another beneficiary was Chiang's old foe Mao Zedong. Mao befriended Edgar Snow in Yenan during China's eight years of war against Japan. Mao's complaints against Chiang were retold by Snow, who succeeded in repainting the Chinese Communist leader for the American public as an agrarian reformer whose sole purpose was to replace the generalissimo to transform China to an idyllic utopia.
After Chiang Kai-shek came to Taiwan at the end of 1949 following his fiasco in the Chinese civil war, there was one known sensational case of complaints filed with the Americans. General Sun Lih-jen, a former commander-in-chief of the army, was accused of filing complaints with the Americans against Chiang Kai-shek. An abortive coup d'etat against Chiang was cracked in 1955, and unconfirmed reports said the United States, which had a large military assistance advisory group working in Taiwan to reorganize Chiang's 600,000 defeated troops evacuated from China, supported Sun's takeover from the aging autocratic leader. Sun was Chiang's only general who was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. General Sun, however, was pardoned.
The American cable TV network duly reported on President Chen's claimed innocence and that of his wife as well as their orthopedic surgeon son-in-law, who has been convicted of insider trading and sentenced to six years in prison. He certainly was not as persuasive as Madame Chiang or Mao Zedong. Nobody believes his complaints with CNN will sway American public opinion about him, but we are afraid it may affect the decision his hand-picked grand justices may have to take sooner or later.