Clean Elections: Target for Taiwan
by Ren-Jou Liu and Brian Lightowler
Ren-Jou Liu was born in Taiwan, worked with Initiatives of Change since 1984. He has been running self development programmes for more than a decade, with the aim of inspiring and enabling individuals to overcome personal challenges in life. He has witnessed encouraging transformation and healing in many lives over the years.
Brian Lightowler was born in UK, a Cambridge University graduate, mountaineer, journalist and Initiatives of Change full-time worker for 54 years in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Author of Corruption: Who Cares?
GENERAL Ho Ying-Chin, commander of the Chinese forces at the end of the Second World War, received the Japanese sword of surrender on 9 September 1945 from General Okamura Yasutsugu, Japanese military commander in China, acting on behalf of the Japanese government. Ho later gave this sword to Frank Buchman in recognition of his work for the Chinese people and the world. Speaking in the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament in 1951, the general emphasised this further when he said, “Moral Re-Armament is the only basis for lasting peace for China and Japan. It is priority”.
Ho attributed the collapse of the Nationalist Government in China in 1949 to corruption and immorality, saying that if the leaders of China had “loved their country more than they loved their mistresses” the outcome could have been different. In Taiwan, he with other leaders invited the MRA Statesmen’s Mission with the powerful musical play The Vanishing Island to Taiwan in 1955. In this Statesmen’s Mission were leading political figures from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Their message was real and simple. For example, Mohammed Masmoudi, later a Tunisian cabinet minister, standing alongside the French Secretary of State for Air, Diomede Catroux, said, “Without Moral Re-Armament, we would be involved today in Tunisia in a war to the death against France…Tunisia would be a second Indo-China.” General Ho in welcoming the visit said, as reported by Dr Daniel Lew, then a member of the Chinese delegation to the United Nations, “This visit is unprecedented in the history of China. Never has such a group as this come to China, or to any other Asian nation, before. Even to our brethren on the Chinese mainland, your visit has brought comfort and hope”.
In 1956 Frank Buchman visited a number of Asian countries including Taiwan where he met General Ho and others convinced of the need for a new spirit as expressed through Moral Re-Armament. Following these visits an international conference took place in Baguio in the Philippines which brought together leaders from the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. General Ho said to the press, “What and I and others have striven for in ten years of post-war diplomacy and failed to achieve has been accomplished here in ten days; speaking for democracy this is the work we are meant to do for many years ahead. The reconciliation between Koreans and Japanese is the most important event of this conference”.
The democracy referred to by General Ho did not begin to arrive in Taiwan until much later in the 1980s, with the opening up of the political system to political parties other than the ruling Nationalist Party. However, through the general’s efforts (he died in 1987 aged 97) and the efforts of Dr Daniel Lew and many others, by the late 1980s a group of people committed to MRA had developed. One of this group was Liu Ren-Jou, a high school mathematics teacher, whose life had been changed to faith in God through a number of talks with Dr Lew. As Taiwan moved towards a democratic system, Liu became convinced that the corrupt practice of vote-buying had to be tackled frontally and publicly before the elections took place for the first time for the National Legislature scheduled for 1992.
Confronting the mood for vote-buying
Speaking later in Caux in 1995, he described how MRA launched a Clean Election Campaign a few months prior to the 1992 national elections. He said:
“Towards the end of 1992, when the first complete electoral reform for legislatures was scheduled, one could predict that the main political power would move to Parliament. In May, one day as I was having lunch with two members of the business community, they were both very worried that the mood for vote-buying would favour only ambitious politicians and enable financial groups to enter Parliament in great numbers, thereby worsening future politics. Business opportunities in Taiwan would become even more unfair. Fair competition and management and the development of the economy would certainly regress, the general environment would worsen and very soon Taiwan would lose hope.
“The next day during a time of reflection, I had a strong inner thought to initiate a clean election campaign. After discussing this with friends and colleagues in Moral Re-Armament in Taiwan, we decided that over the next five years, MRA would go all out to promote a clean election campaign.
“As an individual, I publicly announced that I would never enter politics or take part in any political elections at any time, in order to prevent people from thinking or believing that I had any personal ambitions. I also stated that I would never become a politician.
“The Campaign had a four-point strategy:
1. Strive for joint action with non-government groups and religious groups;
2. Win the trust and support of the ordinary people;
3. Work for a positive response from the media and the public;
4. Make sure that the government keeps its promises in carrying out reforms.”
Taiwan’s Global Views Monthly interviewed two of the Campaign’s leaders, Liu and Jack Huang, a legal adviser to several major enterprises. The magazine reported: “It was Liu who conceived the idea of launching the ‘anti-corruption movement’. Some friends criticised him as a Don Quixote but he persevered. His conviction that ‘human nature could be changed’ inspired others in MRA to join him.” The article added that Huang’s tactical skills had won the full co-operation of 68 other civic groups who also became partners in the campaign. In response to criticism, Liu responded, “We are not engaged in a political struggle”.
Indeed, all those running the Campaign, he said, were personally committed to maintain political neutrality; seek no personal advantage or gain; generate no hatred towards the corrupt but inspire love of country as the motive for action; and run the public demonstrations peacefully and with joy.
As the weeks went by the impact of the Clean Election Campaign grew and became “a raging fire”, according to Global Views Monthly. The Minister of Education, Mao Kao-Wen, wrote to 4.2 million parents of schoolchildren in support of the Campaign. He said that the behaviour of parents influenced the development of their children’s character and none of us would wish our children to cheat in school exams. Parents must set the example and refuse vote-buying. The China Post, Taiwan’s largest newspaper, supplied free advertising space for the Campaign and printed stickers, leaflets and slogans. By the time of the vote, some 670,000 voters had committed themselves in signed statements neither to accept a bribe for their vote nor to vote for any candidate who offered a bribe—practices which had been commonplace for two generations. Of the 350 candidates for the Legislature, 162 signed pledges against vote-buying. President Lee Deng-Hui and Prime Minister Hao Po-Ts’un received members of the Campaign and personally handed over their signed pledges against vote-buying and bribery.
Victory of people power
The results of the Legislature elections were hailed by the media as the miracle of the Clean Election Campaign or the victory of people power. Five billionaires who had stood as candidates offering all sorts of incentives were defeated—and in those same electorates the highest number of votes went to candidates who had supported the Clean Election Campaign. The ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), lost heavily and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) doubled their number of seats. The General Secretary of the Kuomintang resigned.
The Campaign was certainly one factor in the swing of public opinion against vote-buying. It also helps explain the broad public support for the then Justice Minister Ma Ying-jeou’s crackdown on corrupt practices in the city and county elections of March 1994. Twenty-three were arrested, including a speaker, a deputy speaker and nine councillors from city or county authorities on charges of buying votes or accepting bribes. They were found guilty and The China Post reported that Ma’s move had been “like an earthquake measuring more than six on the Richter scale, rocking not only the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party but also the Kuomintang”. Ma said in an interview with Brian Lightowler that the Clean Election Campaign had a positive effect on his crackdown campaign. In fact the two campaigns had interacted on each other.
Following the arrests, the regional chairman of the KMT resigned. A senior official of the KMT pointed out that if Minister Ma continued his relentless attack on corruption the grassroots structure of the KMT could collapse. A group of KMT legislators warned Ma that if that happened he would be held responsible. Ma responded by telling the Legislature that anyone believed guilty of vote-buying would be prosecuted, regardless of his background and political affiliation. The fight against corruption was not for personal show but an ongoing national policy. Nevertheless political pressure from within the ruling KMT on the President led to Ma’s eventual departure from the Ministry of Justice. He told Lightowler, “After three years of crackdown as the minister I was able to prosecute more than 5,000 government officials and 7,500 people involved in vote-buying. The conviction rate when I left the Ministry (and most cases were still pending) was 40 per cent.
“833 city and county councilmen were investigated and 341 prosecuted. In one county of 60 councilmen, 54 were prosecuted. Eleven councilmen in Pindong County were disqualified after being elected. If we pursue things persistently in a very determined way we can really get things done.”
But it was not only Ma’s determination and that of the prosecutors and investigators that produced results; it was also the quality of personal integrity. Ma said that from an early age he had guarded against any form of cheating or corruption. So when he became Minister of Justice, his conviction for personal integrity broadened, so that it was “not only for myself and those around me but also for the people of the country”.
The Prosecutor-General said on Ma’s departure as Justice Minister that if he had been able to stay on for a further three years, Taiwan would be a very different place. In December 2002 Ma won a second term as Mayor of Taipei and is likely to be the KMT’s candidate for President at the next elections.
From 1992 to 1997, the Clean Election Campaign was in action at every election—national, city or local. Hundreds of teachers and university students volunteered for training for the Campaigns, conducting public meetings, demonstrations and seminars. After 1997 the success of the Clean Election Campaign led to the setting up of an officially sponsored campaign against vote-buying and other forms of political corruption.
The Campaign’s present Vice-Chairman, Buddhist Master Shihjingyao, is also a member of Taiwan’s Central Electoral Committee. Evaluating the campaign, he acknowledged that Ma had suffered a political backlash and had been forced to step down. But, he went on to say, “We have been telling the voters that this country belongs to us all. It is up to us to help create a political environment based on clean elections and sound politics so that we can have politicians of good character working for the good of our country. This kind of responsibility belongs to each and every citizen”.
The Financial Times (London) reported that the December 2001 elections were the cleanest in Taiwan’s history. The China Post conducted a poll two days after the election and found that 70.1 per cent of those questioned considered that vote-buying had been greatly reduced and were satisfied that the election was fair.
The effectiveness of the Taiwan Clean Election Campaign led to similar campaigns in Brazil (1994), Kenya (1997, 2002 & 2007), the Solomon Islands (2006), and Sierra Leone (2002) following the civil war and a further campaign in 2007.