Was last week's sudden resignation of Taiwan's minister of justice, Wang Ching-feng, a stunning setback for those who wish to abolish the death penalty? Or might it prove a catalyst leading the island further along the worldwide path towards universal abolition?
Much will depend on how Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou concludes this drama, which has done more to stir up Taiwanese interest in criminal justice than even the ongoing prosecution of former president Chen Shui-bian. Ma's initial reaction has not been encouraging to abolitionists.
The current brouhaha began to make headlines when Wang's deputy, Huang Shih-ming, told a legislative committee that was reviewing his suitability to become prosecutor-general that--although he would favour abolishing the death penalty by legislation--the punishment of the 44 prisoners awaiting execution after judicial condemnation should be delayed no longer.
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