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China and Taiwan: Two Chens face two systems

High-level criminal charges on both sides of the Taiwan Strait illustrate how the two countries manage corruption.

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As recent corruption scandals have ensnared top politicians on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the differences between democratically ruled Taiwan's approach to corruption and mainland China's have been on graphic display in "the tale of two Chens."

In Taiwan, allegations in the media that President Chen Shui-Bian had misappropriated money from a special presidential fund led to huge protest demonstrations and an investigation by prosecutors that has seen the island's first lady indicted for embezzlement.

But inside Beijing's corridors of power, it is the fear of such public outcry and unrest that has driven official anti-graft campaigns.

Rumors that Shanghai's provincial Communist Party Secretary Chen Liangyu was mixed up in shady business were confirmed only after Party investigators sent from Beijing wound up their secret work last September, and Mr. Chen was summarily dismissed.

The most senior Chinese official to be sacked for corruption in 11 years, Chen reportedly misused $400 million from Shanghai's pension fund, but he has not yet been charged with any crime.

"In China it's a top-down process," says Andrew Yang, who heads the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a Taiwanese think tank. "Here the anticorruption campaign has been bottom-up."

It has been messy, too, with indictments not only for the Taiwanese president's wife but also for his son-in-law, two of his top aides, and two cabinet ministers. Prosecutors said they had enough evidence to indict Mr. Chen himself, but he is protected by presidential immunity.

The official press in mainland China clearly took pleasure in covering Taipei's scandal. But clean-government campaigners in Taipei are not embarrassed, pointing instead to the prosecutor's courage in indicting members of the first family.


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