DPP cries foul as court upholds senior members' jail term for land deal

Party leaders proclaim integrity of two senior members now facing prison over land deal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 5:51am

Taiwan's main political opposition yesterday decried a high court's decision to uphold a lower court's sentencing of two of the party's most senior members, including a former top negotiator with the mainland, for a breach of trust in 2003 land deal.

Taiwan's High Court ruled on Wednesday that the two members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) - Hong Chi-chang, a former head of the government-funded Straits Exchange Foundation, and Wu Nai-jen, former head of the government-run Taiwan Sugar Corp - must serve their sentences.

A district court sentenced Hong to two years and four months in jail for his involvement in a deal to sell a plot of the Taiwan Sugar Corp's land to the Chun Lung Co, a land developer, for NT$220 million (HK$57.42 million) less than the market price. Wu was given three years and 10 months for agreeing to the sale while he was company chairman in 2003.

The district court said that, as the head of Taiwan Sugar, Wu should have known it had long been the policy of the government-run company to rent out rather than sell its land. But after Hong's lobbying, Wu instructed his subordinates to change the policy and allow Chun Lung, a long-time political fund contributor to Hong, to obtain the rights to buy the land.

As the High Court's ruling in breach-of-trust cases are final, neither Hong nor Wu can re-appeal. The decision triggered condemnation from the DPP, which scolded judicial authorities for a perceived "miscarriage of justice".

It's totally unacceptable, and we suspect political interference is involved

"It's totally unacceptable, and we suspect political interference is involved," said Lin Chun-hsien, spokesman of the pro-independence party.

DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang defended Wu and Hong, who are key members of the party's biggest faction, called New Tide, saying that they would never have done what they had been convicted of doing. Former DPP chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen said that she had faith in Wu's integrity.

In a statement, Wu stressed that Taiwan Sugar auctioned off the plot of land through public tender in August 2004, eight months after he stepped down as the company chairman. Hong called the ruling regrettable and planned to seek retrial after receiving a copy of the verdict.

Hong, a veteran DPP member who had served as legislator, has been considered one of the few DPP politicians who opted for dialogue with the mainland. Wu, a former DPP secretary-general, has been known for helping the party in election campaigns, notably by aiding Tsai in last year's presidential election, when the former chairwoman was narrowly defeated by Ma Ying-jeou.