Scholars criticize Chen over political appointments

The China Post staff

President Chen Shui-bian should stop the government from showing favoritism to businessmen, a private watchdog urged yesterday. The renowned scholars from the Taipei Society made the appeal while meeting with Chen behind closed doors to call for more sweeping reforms, the watchdog revealed later. “The government should not be accommodating capitalists and should keep a proper distance from business groups,” they said. They pointed out that the people generally believe that the government is trying to please businessmen and are using top government posts as “political rewards.” They said they are worried that a new collusion between the government and business interests have been formed.

They criticized the government for showing little determination to carry out reforms, with frequent contradictions and chaos marring its policies. The worst problem facing the government is its decision-making process and its efficiency, they said, adding that policies and personnel appointments have been decided in the dark. They cited the recent appointments to top posts in a few state-run businesses as examples of “opaque” government operations, which they said have been undermining the government’s credibility. “The government should be listening to opinions from all walks of life on parliamentary and government reforms,” said Chu Hai-yuan, one of the Taipei Society members and a researcher at the Academia Sinica. “The administration lacks a clear line of thinking and vision for its reforms… The president should stop attending commencement programs of schools and should instead start to concentrate on setting a definite course for the reforms.” During its five-decade rule in Taiwan, the Kuomintang often came under fire for similar problems that the Taipei Society has reproached the present administration for.

For the scholars, the Democratic Progressive Party, who used to be a harsh critic of such favoritism, seem to be heading same direction. The DPP administration is stepping up efforts to curb dissent, with a recent proposal to conduct “loyalty checks” on civil servants. It has also threatened human rights with several raids on media establishments for alleged leaks of state secrets and with plans to set up fingerprint files on all citizens.. But Chen denied that he had been maneuvering the recent personnel changes, saying he had allowed Premier Yu Shyi-kun entire control over the government management. He also denied playing any part in the searches of the media establishments or in the fingerprint proposal. But he said he would still have to shoulder the blame. “As president, I have to totally accept all criticism,” Chen was quoted replying to the scholars’ reproach. “If the government is impeding human rights then the policies must be adjusted,” Chen promised. This is the first time the Taipei Society has talked with the president in a formal meeting. Chen had wanted to meet the esteemed scholars in August 2000, a few months after taking office, but the scholars said then that the time was not ripe. The Taipei Society is formed by scholars, who maintain impartiality in watching the government.