Stamps of 2023: Taiwan (January 2023)

Jan. 3, 2023

Citizen Judges System

Over the past few decades, only judges have been the triers of fact and law in Taiwan’s judiciary. Effective January 1, 2023, ordinary people now have the opportunity to be take on that role in criminal cases, a milestone in Taiwan’s history. The Citizen Judges Act (國民法官法) was passed by the Legislative Yuan on July 22 2022, and was promulgated by the president on August 12.

Under the act, lay people will be randomly selected as citizen judges to participate in trial proceedings and adjudicate cases alongside professional judges in certain felony cases. The purpose of the citizen judge system is to enhance the transparency of the judiciary, account for the public’s opinion toward the law, promote public confidence in the judiciary, provide the public with a better understanding of the judiciary and honor the ideal of popular sovereignty.

To accommodate a variety of living experiences and values from all walks of life, enrich professional judges’ perspectives of handling cases, allow the public to understand the judicial mechanism and enhance interaction between lay people and legal professionals, panels of three professional judges and six citizen judges are to be formed and entrusted with handling specific criminal cases. Professional judges and citizen judges are to work as teams, including hearing and deliberating cases, as well as delivering judgements.

Taiwan is a civil law jurisdiction, as opposed to common law jurisdictions that hold jury trials. The citizen judge system is based on Japan’s saiban-in system, which also resembles a lay judge system. The primary objective of Taiwan’s citizen participation is to open a dialogue between judges and ordinary people in the interest of boosting judicial transparency and enhancing public confidence in the judiciary. Therefore, professional judges and citizen judges will be encouraged to have more discussions and interactions during deliberations under the new system, while judges are excluded from the fact-finding in jury trials.

The citizen judge system is to some extent dissimilar to the jury system. Under the citizen judge system, lay people and professional judges are the triers of fact and law with respect to not only rendering a guilty or not guilty verdict, but also determining the sentencing after a guilty consensus is reached. In jury trials, lay people merely have the power to determine whether a defendant is guilty, but have no authority to decide the sentencing. Lay people’s living experiences and values are not incorporated into sentencing decisions in jury trials, whereas ordinary people’s viewpoints and opinions are embedded in deciding the sentencing in a citizen judge system, thoroughly facilitating the public’s participation in criminal cases.

Under the National Judges Act, lay judges are described as national judges. At the district court level, six lay judges will review premeditated crimes leading to death, or crimes requiring imprisonment of ten years or more, alongside three career judges. Six of the nine judges, including one career judge, must concur for a guilty verdict. The same majority must concur for a death penalty to be decided. Lay judges are barred from hearing court cases involving minors or drug charges. To serve as a lay judge, one must be a citizen of the Republic of China, be at least 23 years old, have completed a high school education or equivalent, and have lived within the jurisdiction of the district court for four months. Those with a criminal record cannot serve as a lay judge. Under the National Judges Act, exemptions from service may be granted to educators, students, those above 70 years of age, people with health conditions that could be exacerbated by participation in legal proceedings, or those with difficulty setting aside home and work duties.

To commemorate this historic act, Chunghwa Post of Taiwan released a souvenir sheet with one stamp of a face value of NT$28 on January 3, 2023. The stamp features a court with citizen judges, and the marginal inscription of the souvenir sheet features the Judicial Office Building in Taipei, which is a national heritage site.

Technical Specifications

Stamp: SN B346
Stamp Name: Com.346 The Implementation of Citizen Judges System Commemorative Souvenir Sheet
Issue date: 2023-01-03
Dimension of stamps: 60 × 30 (mm)
Size of souvenir Sheet: 120 × 72 (mm)
Printer: Cardon Enterprise Co., Ltd.
Designer: Delta Design Corporation
Process: Offset lithography
Paper: Phosphorescent stamp paper
Perforation: 13½

Jan. 13, 2023

Lee Teng-hui Birth Centenary

Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was a Taiwanese statesman and agriculturist who served as President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) under the 1947 Constitution and chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) from 1988 to 2000. He was the first president to be born in Taiwan, the last to be indirectly elected and the first to be directly elected. During his presidency, Lee oversaw the end of martial law and the full democratization of the ROC, advocated the Taiwanese localization movement, and led an ambitious foreign policy to gain allies around the world. Nicknamed “Mr. Democracy”, Lee was credited as the president who completed Taiwan’s transition to the democratic era.

After leaving office, he remained active in Taiwanese politics. Lee was considered the “spiritual leader” of the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), and recruited for the party in the past. After Lee campaigned for TSU candidates in the 2001 Taiwanese legislative election, he was expelled by the KMT. Other activities that Lee engaged in included maintaining relations with former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and Japan.

As he consolidated power during the early years of his presidency, Lee allowed his rivals within the KMT to occupy positions of influence: when Yu Guo-hwa retired as premier in 1989, he was replaced by Lee Huan, who was succeeded by Hau Pei-tsun in 1990. At the same time, Lee made a major reshuffle of the Executive Yuan, as he had done with the KMT Central Committee, replacing several elderly waishengren with younger benshengren, mostly of technical backgrounds. Fourteen of these new appointees, like Lee, had been educated in the United States. Prominent among the appointments were Lien Chan as foreign minister and Shirley Kuo as finance minister.

1990 saw the arrival of the Wild Lily student movement on behalf of full democracy for Taiwan. Thousands of Taiwanese students demonstrated for democratic reforms. The demonstrations culminated in a sit-in demonstration by over 300,000 students at Memorial Square in Taipei. Students called for direct elections of the national president and vice president and for a new election for all legislative seats. On March 21, Lee welcomed some of the students to the Presidential Building. He expressed his support of their goals and pledged his commitment to full democracy in Taiwan.

The previous eight presidents and vice presidents of the ROC had been elected by the members of the National Assembly. For the first time, the President of the ROC would be elected by majority vote of Taiwan’s population. The PRC conducted a series of missile tests in the waters surrounding Taiwan and other military maneuvers off the coast of Fujian in response to what Communist Party leaders described as moves by Lee to “split the motherland”. The PRC government launched another set of tests just days before the election, sending missiles over the island to express its dissatisfaction should the Taiwanese people vote for Lee. The military actions disrupted trade and shipping lines and caused a temporary dip in the Asian stock market. Ironically, the 1996 missile launches boosted support for Lee instead. Lee’s overall stance on Taiwanese independence during the election cycle was characterized as “deliberately vague”.

On March 23, 1996, Lee became the first popularly elected ROC president with 54% of the vote. Many people who worked or resided in other countries made special trips back to the island to vote. In addition to the president, the governor of Taiwan Province and the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung (as leaders of provincial level divisions they were formerly appointed by the president) became popularly elected.

During his presidency, Lee supported the Taiwanese localization movement. The Taiwanization movement has its roots in Japanese rule founded during the Japanese era and sought to put emphasis on vernacular Taiwanese culture in Taiwan as the center of people’s lives as opposed to Nationalist China. During the Chiang era, China was promoted as the center of an ideology that would build a Chinese national outlook in a people who had once considered themselves Japanese subjects. Taiwan was often relegated to a backwater province of China in the KMT-supported history books. People were discouraged from studying local Taiwanese customs, which were to be replaced by mainstream Chinese customs. Lee sought to turn Taiwan into a center rather than an appendage. In 1997, he presided over the adoption of the Taiwan-centric history textbook Knowing Taiwan.

Since resigning the chairmanship of the KMT, Lee stated a number of political positions and ideas which he did not mention while he was president, but which he appeared to have privately maintained. After Lee endorsed the candidates of the newly formed Pan-Green Taiwan Solidarity Union, a party established by a number of his KMT allies, Lee was expelled from the KMT on September 21, 2001.

Lee publicly supported the Name Rectification Campaigns in Taiwan and proposed changing the name of the country from the Republic of China to the Republic of Taiwan. He generally opposed unlimited economic ties with the PRC, placing restrictions on Taiwanese wishing to invest in the mainland.

After Chen Shui-bian succeeded Lee in the 2000 election, the two enjoyed a close relationship despite being from different political parties. Chen regularly asked Lee for advice during his first term in office. In Chen’s 2001 book, he called Lee the “Father of Taiwanese Democracy” and also named himself the “Son of Taiwan” with respect to Lee. However, the two’s relationship began to worsen when Lee questioned Chen’s reform of the fisheries branch of the Council of Agriculture. Though Lee was present in the 228 Hand-in-Hand rally orchestrated by the Pan-Green Coalition before the 2004 election, the two’s relationship broke apart after Chen asked James Soong to be the President of the Executive Yuan in 2005, which Lee disagreed with. Lee also publicly criticized Chen in 2006 by calling him incapable and corrupt.

In February 2007, Lee shocked the media when he revealed that he did not support Taiwanese independence, when he was widely seen as the spiritual leader of the pro-independence movement. Lee also said that he supported opening up trade and tourism with the mainland, a position he had opposed before. Lee later explained that Taiwan already enjoys de facto independence and that political maneuvering over details of expressing it is counterproductive. He maintains that “Taiwan should seek ‘normalization’ by changing its name and amending its constitution.”

Epitaph of Lee Teng-hui at the Wuzhi Mountain Military Cemetery

Lee died of multiple organ failure and septic shock at Taipei Veterans General Hospital on 7:24 pm, July 30, 2020, at the age of 97. He had suffered from infections and cardiac problems since he was admitted to hospital in February. A state funeral was announced, while a memorial venue at the Taipei Guest House where people paid respects to Lee was opened to the public from August 1 to 16, 2020, after which Lee’s body was cremated and his remains interred at Wuzhi Mountain Military Cemetery. All national flags at government institutions were placed at half-mast for three days.

Lee had the nickname “Mr. Democracy” and Taiwan’s “Father of Democracy” for his actions to democratize Taiwan’s government and his opposition to ruling Communists in mainland China. A November 2020 phone survey of 1,076 Taiwan citizens aged 18 and above which asked the question: “Which president, after Taiwan’s democratization, do you think has the best leadership? Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian, Ma Ying-jeou, or Tsai Ing-wen?” revealed Lee topped the survey with 43 percent, with incumbent president Tsai on 32 percent, Ma on 18 percent and 6.6 percent for Chen.

Lee’s 100th birthday falls on January 15, 2023. To express gratitude for the first popularly elected president in the nation’s history, Chunghwa Post will release a souvenir sheet tomorrow (January 13) in commemoration. Featuring a stamp with a denomination of NT$28, it has a simple and stately appearance: A block of gold represents the solid and precious stone that President Lee laid for the foundations of democratic society in Taiwan and the deep values of freedom that he embodied.

Technical Specifications

Stamp: SN B347
Stamp Name: Com.347 100th Birthday of Former President Lee Teng-hui Commemorative Souvenir Sheet
Issue date: 2023-01-13
Dimension of stamps: 40 × 64 (mm)
Size of souvenir sheet: 76 × 110 (mm)
Printer: China Color Printing Co., Ltd.
Designer: Delta Design Corporation
Process: Offset Lithography
Paper: Phosphorescent stamp paper
Perforation: 12½

One thought on “Stamps of 2023: Taiwan (January 2023)

  1. Pingback: Stamps of 2023: Monthly Wrap-Up (January) | Mark Joseph Jochim

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