Lee Hoi-chang's Assembly SpeechIn his parliamentary address Tuesday, Lee Hoi-chang, president of the Grand National Party, suggested a grand reform in politics and pledged to put the public first. We hope that politicians will go through a self-cleansing period to recover public confidence and then place the people on the top of the agenda. In addition, Mr. Lee''s understanding of the current situation is quite different from that of the ruling camp.
Mr. Lee said, "For the past three years, the government backslid toward a new authoritarianism and government-directed economic management as it disregarded the rule of law and used prosecution and taxation authority as a means of political vendettas." We do not completely agree with Mr. Lee''s diagnosis, but it is plausible. There were cases in which prosecution and taxation powers were used pell-mell as the regime saw fit.
In connection with recent tax audits of some news companies, Mr. Lee was also critical. He said, "The sudden initiation of tax audits for the first time in seven years is an attempt to hobble and suppress the press in the name of press reform." He demanded that the audits be halted because it is "a clear press persecution lacking legitimacy." It is true that tax audits have engendered misunderstanding in terms of the timing, the intensity, and the aspect of affecting public opinion. The probes began with the president''s remarks on press reform, followed by television and radio discussion programs dealing with the topic. The ruling camp should listen to Mr. Lee''s observation that the audits smack of an attempt to tame the press. The press cannot be sacrosanct, and there is no reason to oppose normal, legitimate tax audits. We will, however, carefully watch whether the methods and procedures reek of political motives.
Mr. Lee defined the investigation into the spy agency''s diversion of funds as a persecution of the opposition and proposed legislation banning political vendettas. He also called for appointment hearings for senior government officials and mechanisms to guarantee their political neutrality. These are all great departures from the ruling party''s opinions. The ruling party and the opposition should narrow these gaps in the Assembly as a top priority.