Jennifer Cheng, a supporter of Chen Shui-bian, the imprisoned former president of the Republic of China in-exile, says the courts in Taiwan lack fairness under ROC administration. Cheng has the unique vantage point of being the only member of the public to attend every court session in Chen Shui-bian’s four years of prosecution for alleged corruption.
The lack of a jury system leaves the judges in charge of guilt or innocence and Cheng says that is where things go wrong under the ROC judicial system, Cheng said in an exclusive interview in Taipei.
“The first judge, Judge Chou, found Abian not guilty and sent him home with no bail. But Ma somehow changed the judge,” said Cheng who refers to Chen by his nickname. “Then Judge Tsai called Mr. Abian to the court….It was so different. Abian suddenly became guilty.”
Angered at the sudden turnabout after the judge was switched, Cheng and others paid the new judge, Tsai Shou-hsun, an after-hours visit. “We went to Judge Tsai’s home, outside his house, to tell him he was unfair and to free Abian. We went to his house twice.”
“At the first of the trial, outside the court, were all these policemen, with guns, I thought I must be imagining because there were so many. I told one policeman I was a Taiwan citizen in a democratic country. I asked him why was he facing me. They were intimidating people,” asserts Cheng. “I told the officer I was a supporter of President Chen. I told him we did not come to be against the policemen. I told him the next time I come to court I don’t want to see this [gun]. So the next time they did not take the gun.”
“You know President Abian’s health is not good so he went to the hospital. However, he was sent to the hospital handcuffed and in leg chains. They treat President Chen meanly. We are heartbroken. Why do they treat our president like this? He is unhealthy, why do they treat him like this? We ask the world to help.”
Jennifer Cheng then confronted the hospital doctor in charge of Chen Shui-bain’s examination: “We went to the doctor’s office to object and asked why did they treat Chen in this way. They said it is policy for medical check-ups to use the handcuffs and the chain.”
“It is unfair; Ma cannot treat Abian like this. This is a democracy, he was the president for eight years, we Taiwanese are very angry but so hopeless.”
Jennifer Cheng has plenty of criticism to go around: “At that time, the Democratic Progressive Party chair, Ms. Tsai, saw us and told us, “You cannot say Abian is not guilty.” Why? She stopped us from speaking out that Abian is not guilty. We were very unhappy at that time.”
Cheng, a DPP loyalist, is critical of her own party leadership over the failure to speak out for Chen Shui-bian: “During the election  Ms. Tsai did not talk about human rights. She did not talk about Abian’s human rights. She avoided touching the issue of President Chen. She told us to stop talking about Abian’s lack of guilt because she respects the judicial system, we hate that. The judicial system is not able to be objective; it is not reliable, not accountable.”
“In the beginning of the trial, all of the DPP heavyweights said we must respect the judicial system. But the judicial system said he is guilty so we must stop saying he is not,” complained Cheng.
“In the courtroom we took any chance to show our support of Abian and to send our warmth to Abian at any opportunity. If President Chen went to the bathroom, even then we stood in the corridor with our thumbs up. When Abian saw us he nodded,” said Cheng. “We have more experiences. In the High Court, every time President Abian came in, we all stood up with our thumbs up.”
Jennifer Cheng is a quiet, shy person but her anger at the treatment of Chen Shui-bian gives her righteous courage: “Mr. Tsai, he was promoted after Abian’s case to the High Court. This Judge Tsai was at the High Court in another room when I passed by. I saw Tsai and I spoke to him in a loud voice, “Tsai, you persecuted Abian with a life sentence.” Tsai purposely tries to convict with life sentences.”
“For four years Abian has been in jail,” said Cheng. “We feel helpless and we don’t know how to get Abian freed. Every two months there was a detention hearing to decide if Abian had to remain in the jail or go home. Judge Tsai always agreed with prosecutors that Abian will escape. But every time Abian said to Judge Tsai, “I will never escape. I will never leave my home, my country, the land of my beloved people.”
“They kept him in jail even before he was found guilty.”
Cheng complained about the confiscation of political contributions: “In the High Court the judge told Abian that if he gave money from overseas to the special prosecutors account he would be freed. But the money has already been deposited with the court and still he is in jail. But it was a lie to get the donations. Many times the judge told Abian if you send money back to Taiwan maybe you will be freed. The money was from supporters and was clean.”
“There were so many unjust procedures during the trial, the change of judges and forced false testimony,” said Cheng. “In the government affairs fund corruption case Chen offered receipts in an envelope and he asked the judge to open the evidence but he wouldn’t even open it. He was against the evidence provided so he wouldn’t even look at it. Then the case went to the High Court and the judges looked at the evidence in a secret court and found Chen innocent. In the government affairs case Chen was not guilty after they opened the evidence too late. Chen was detained two years and found not guilty; they waited two years to look at the evidence while Chen was in jail. It is unbelievable but it is true.”
Jennifer Cheng recounted her experience: “In the past four years, every time I go to the court to support President Chen I am not afraid. I am very proud I have had an opportunity to support Abian. I would tell the police that under Ma’s “one China” that Chinese policemen would come to Taiwan and they would all lose their jobs, so the police would listen to me. Finally, the police became very kind to me.”
“Abian has been in a small cell, no bed, no chair, just sitting on the floor, twenty-four hours light and camera. Ma’s government is like a devil.”
Next: Huang Yueh-hong, editor of Rule of Law Times, talks about Chen Shui-bian’s trial