Dr. Shieh’s financial records were seized and his apartment searched, and while investigators have found no evidence of wrongdoing, Dr. Shieh -- in what appears to be a complete disregard for civil and human rights to those of us, including his family, in the United States -- remains in custody without bail, apparently in a cell that does not even have a bed.
At issue is an NT $8.05 billion (U.S. $200 million) contract to reduce railway vibrations around a science park where high-tech firms building semiconductors and such cannot tolerate excessive vibrations. The problem has plagued the government for nearly a decade now, and in fact former ministers have previously resigned in disgrace due to its failures. Dr. Shieh, who has been NSC deputy minister since 2000, took on this controversial project because he knew it simply had to succeed.
It appears that all suspicions regarding Dr. Shieh -- that he helped steer awarding of the contract for personal gain -- are the result of hearsay, a reckless media and a government in chaos that is looking for scapegoats. That volatility has come to a head in just the past few days with President Chen Shui-bian relinquishing many of his duties to his premier in light of a scandal involving Chen’s son-in-law.
Dr. Shieh, meanwhile, waits in his cell, forgotten except by his family and his friends.
Dr. Shieh, who received his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan, is a lot like many of our own parents who came to the United States in the `60s and `70s seeking a better education and a better life for their yet-unborn children. Also like my own father, Dr. Shieh eventually returned to Taiwan and was instrumental -- through his expertise in science and technology -- in helping his homeland emerge as a new leader among small industrial nations.
Prosecutors have been suspiciously tightlipped in their investigation of Dr. Shieh, and have yet to file formal charges of any kind. While reports of Dr. Shieh’s detainment -- that he is forced to sleep on the floor, and that he is not allowed to wear his own clothes -- are unsubstantiated in English-language news media, we have been given no reason to doubt these claims.
Among the few Taiwan-based news reports that are freely available in English is a May 25 China Post article that seems as in the dark as Shieh’s family in the United States. It reads like a regurgitated government statement, affording no comment from Shieh’s legal counsel, family or supporters, and in fact lending a megaphone to an opposition Kuomintang Party official who suggests that the current administration – the Democratic Progressive Party that appointed Dr. Shieh -- is "rotten."
Dr. Shieh’s daughter Rosalyne, who lives in Princeton, N.J., and is a dear friend of mine, has told me that her family is allowed "no contact with my father whatsoever." She has asked Amnesty International to monitor the situation, and is launching a grassroots campaign to show, at the very least, that the Taiwanese government is being watched.
Meanwhile, Rosalyne’s brother, a UCLA neurologist, and her mother in Fountain Valley, Calif., have gained some support from American news media such as the Orange County Register, and they are now urging their peers, particularly Asian Americans who still have family abroad, to write their representatives in U.S. Congress to remind Taiwan that the eerily familiar tactics in Dr. Shieh’s detainment are backward steps in an already fragile democracy.
My intention here is not to argue Dr. Shieh’s innocence, but simply to demand that he be afforded due process; that this lifelong servant of science -- and devoted father and husband -- not be held without bail like a dangerous criminal unless evidence and formal charges are brought against his case.
For more information or to find out how to help, please visit www.supportching.com or e-mail supportching [at] gmail.com.
Calvin Liu is an editor for the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, CA, and a former editor for AsianWeek. He contributed to Hyphen issue #6.