The latest chapter in the ongoing crime story involving Taiwan’s unresolved international status took place November 23 in a small Taoyuan District Court hearing room. Over four hundred black-suited members of Taiwan Civil Government showed up to line the hallways as the tiny room only held twenty spectators. The founder of TCG and his wife, Roger and Julian Lin, are accused with others of tricking group members with false claims into making donations.
Since their May 2018 arrests following a midnight raid and dramatic television coverage the Lins, long held incommunicado in solitary confinement punishment cells, have had to contend with aggressive prosecutors who oppose their million dollar bail. The number of disgruntled TCG members pressing charges keeps shifting. Prosecutors originally announced 110 complaining witnesses. Then, after a round of subpoenas and interrogations, the number swelled to 315 complainants. However, many of the new “victims” made affidavits refuting the prosecutors. At the hearing the number finally settled at seventy-five witnesses.
The Lins are accused of making false claims of support from the United States and about the value of donation memorabilia such as TCG vanity license plates, identification cards, and officious titles. The couple are also charged with money laundering with a focus on money transfers, both by wire and cash, to the Taiwan Civil Government Foundation in Washington. Prosecutors seem to believe the Washington foundation was used to launder money. While that may have happened, no evidence has yet been provided, the prosecutors seem to overlook the expensive TCG lobbying efforts in Washington that have poured several millions of dollars to public relations firms, attorneys, newspapers, foundations, magazines, and broadcast programs.
Presiding Judge Yi Shan Yao is faced with a challenge on the issue of support from the United States. On one hand prosecutors offer a secret letter from the American Institute on Taiwan showing there is no relationship with the United States. On the other is photographic evidence supporting Julian Lin’s claim of a private meeting with Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway.
A second challenge facing the judge is sorting out what claims were made, when, and by whom. Defense attorneys approached this issue with a correction of language. TCG activity is now permitted under international law of war instead of by grant of the United States. Also, the two terms, recognize and authorize, have previously been used interchangeably. Now each word has taken on its own definition. Judge Yi may also have to evaluate seventy-five individual stories.
The third challenge is actually delivering justice. Although that should be a given, the political dimensions of this case are enormous. Roger Lin is devoted to expelling the ROC from Taiwan. Lin is an enemy of what he considers Chinese rule, however Judge Yi is sworn to uphold the exiled Republic of China. There will be no jury trial, the ROC doesn’t believe in the jury system. The judge will decide the fate of Roger and Julian Lin.
The Lins were held in harsh pre-trial detention for over four months and were only granted bail after TCG bought a full-page advertisement in the New York Times appealing for United Nations help. This international crime story has been ignored by the English-language news media. It appears that Taiwan’s longstanding “strategic ambiguity” has closed in around the case leaving the vast majority of Americans clueless about this unique tale of intrigue, greed, and national sovereignty.