Geography Reference
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justice minister became famous for revealing that around one third of
Taiwan's 800+ city and county councilors were tainted by organized
crime backgrounds or contacts and for his warning that if efforts at
“sweeping away organized crime” (saohei) were not thorough, Taiwan
would become another Sicily.
Things have not dramatically improved since 1996. According to a
recent study of organized crime in Taiwan, “Hardly a day goes by
without news reports about politicians, businessmen, and gangsters
being involved in financial scandal, bid rigging, corruption, vote buy-
ing, violent confrontation, or fraud” (Chin 2003, 14). A corrupt tri-
angular nexus among politicians, gangsters, and businessmen has
developed in Taiwan, with each corner of the triangle giving benefits
to, and receiving benefits from, the two other corners. The result of this
baleful triangulation is the moral confounding of Taiwanese society:
A relationship between the upperworld and the underworld has
evolved into an integration of the two worlds into one and the develop-
ment of public figures who are at the same time gangsters, entrepre-
neurs, and politicians in the fullest sense. An influential legislator who
is also the convener of the judicial committee of the legislature could
also be one of the richest entrepreneurs in the country and the one
who proclaimed himself to be the “spiritual leader” of a powerful gang
and listed as a hoodlum by the authorities. A county magistrate
who was imprisoned as a hoodlum could also be the owner of a major
construction company and other big businesses and considered by
his constituents as the best county executive in Taiwan. The integration
of the upperworld and the underworld in Taiwan results in the develop-
ment of a morally confusing society where politicians are talking
and acting like gangsters and gangsters are talking and acting like
politicians. (Chin 2003, 19)
Although voter participation rates in Taiwan are quite high, the
ubiquitous tentacles of organized crime and shady moneymen in
Taiwanese politics have given some people in Taiwan, particularly
intellectuals, considerable pause and moral qualms about voting. There
is little wonder that so many mainland Chinese are so cynical about
Taiwan's democratic process. Further, a large majority of American
leaders and policy makers would quite likely rethink their view of
Taiwan as a viable emergent democracy if they knew the extent to
which criminal gangs manipulate the island's democratic institutions.
These gangs constitute a significant threat to the island's newfound
democracy and international security and are a blight, nay a tumor,
on Taiwan's body politic.
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