Taiwan Military Police Seize Documents Amid Growing Scandal

Michael Turton , March 8, 2016 11:39am

Huge controversy this week (Taipei Times) over the military police seizing documents relating to the 2-28 massacre and subsequent White Terror from a private citizen whose consent to the search was coerced…

The command made the remarks amid growing attention to the case implicating Wei, whose daughter is believed to be the author of an article detailing Wei’s situation that was posted on Saturday on the Professional Technology Temple (PTT), the nation’s largest academic online bulletin board.

Wei’s daughter, who goes by the pseudonym “k9t8u5,” said in the article, titled “Military police illegally searched my house and seized items,” that her father owned a collection of White Terror era documents.

“Just a few days before the 69th anniversary of the 228 Incident, several military police came and raided my house, confiscated the documents and used a minivan to drive my father to their interrogation room for questioning,” she said.

She said her father also sold pu-erh tea leaves online and military police posed as potential buyers of tea and asked her father to meet them at an MRT station.

She said her father told her that when he met the military police, they demanded to search his house.

“My dad asked to see a warrant, but they told him it was an easy task to get a warrant and that his refusal to cooperate would end badly for him. That was why my father got in their car and allowed them to search our house without a warrant,” she wrote.

Bob Kao over at Taiwan Law Blog observed that the main issue is not the involvement of the military police — though that is a deplorable relic of the authoritarian era — but consent:

Second, the main legal issue here is whether the civilian was coerced. The general story being reported is that the military police arranged for a meeting with the civilian outside under the pretense of buying tea from him, which is perfectly legal. Because they did not have a warrant, the military police asked for the civilian’s consent – which he gave – to enter his home and seize the classified documents after acknowledging the real purpose of the meeting. He was given a receipt by the officers. The main point of contention is whether the consent was valid. Did he voluntarily consent or was he coerced and threatened?

In addition to the legal and political issues, this event also shows another key political structure in Taiwan: the influence of the BBS systems which are the mainstay of communication for Taiwanese university students and academics, and above all, of PTT. These BBS systems are overwhelmingly pro-Taiwan and anti-KMT. The issue only became a public flap after it was posted to PTT…

UPDATED: Today, Mar 8, legislators from both the KMT and DPP slammed the military police and the ministry of justice….

The Legislative Yuan’s Foreign and National Defense Committee put aside its scheduled agenda to question officials over the affair, passed resolutions condemning the military police’s actions and demanded the preservation of all documents relating to the White Terror era.
“[The documents] were not classified and had already become historical documents,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said, questioning whether their presence on an online auctioning site was urgent enough to justify military police acting directly instead of referring the case to a public prosecutor.

“Even if investigations are allowed to be conducted without the permission of a prosecutor, personnel from the Ministry of Defense should not have gone with the military police to meet the suspect because they are not ‘judicial police,’” he said, adding that it appeared that the military police had abandoned their neutrality and followed ministry orders.

“The reason this has become such a huge issue is that a judicial and human rights red line has been crossed,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said.

The ministry conducted a “scam operation” by pretending to want to purchase tea to “fish out” the man who posted the documents, Lo said, questioning whether the man had willingly assented to the military police searching his home.

Minister of Defense Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻) apologized for the fear and controversy caused by the incident in response to demands from DPP Legislator Lu Sun-ling (呂孫綾) that he do so.

Perhaps this will lead to changes in the law that permits the military police to carry out civilian investigations, a relic of the martial law era. This case also highlights how martial law-era laws maintain their malefic influence on Taiwan society…

Michael Turton

A long time expat in Taiwan.