PU Graduate Student Launches Campaign to Free Father From 'Political Witch Hunt'

Matthew Hersh

As a worried daughter whose father has been jailed in a Taiwanese prison for more than 50 days, Rosalyne Shieh is clearly shaken, but remains calm. It's all for the sake of family, she said.

"My mom is a wreck," said Ms. Shieh, who is entering her final semester as a graduate student at the Princeton University School of Architecture. After what at first seemed to be a routine questioning, Ms. Shieh's father, Dr. Ching Shieh, has since had his financial records seized, and warrants to search his secretary's home and his driver's residence have been issued.

"They haven't charged him with anything and they've openly admitted that nothing has been found yet," said a baffled Ms. Shieh, who admitted to not fully comprehending the political motivations behind her father's arrest.

Dr. Shieh was taken into custody May 24 and has been held, without bail, ever since. Ms. Shieh has no direct contact with him; rather, she has to rely on weekly briefings from a team of lawyers working on his behalf.

The charges are ambiguous at best, Ms. Shieh said. After becoming a deputy minister of the National Science Council in Taiwan five years ago, Dr. Shieh adopted a project whose goal is to reduce vibrations from a high-speed railway abutting the Southern Taiwan Science Park, which had been interfering with semi-conductor companies that cannot sustain the high level of vibrations.

After partnering with a nine-member committee (which included Dr. Shieh as a non-voting member) to put the project out to bid, two companies were chosen for their designs: the first from Yung Chun Co. with a $56 million price tag (1.8 billion New Taiwan dollars); the second from Hung Hua Engineering Co., for a cost of $250 million (8.05 billion New Taiwan dollars).

The committee chose the higher-priced Hung Hua design to build a railway prototype, but the government, largely swayed by negative media influence, Ms. Shieh said, claimed that the high cost was unjustified and accused her father and the other eight committee members of favoritism.

"Of course, he's my father and I'm inclined to trust him, but he worked as a project engineer in the U.S. for 25 years and he has experience working on very specialized projects, and this is a very specialized problem," Ms. Shieh said, adding that the government stepped in after the losing design firm submitted a formal complaint.

"They're trying to imply that he was friends with the owner of the engineering company who won the bid, but he didn't know this person until the project started," Ms. Shieh said. What was suspicious, Ms. Shieh said, was that the firm had patented the design, effectively limiting the building process to one company — the bid winner.

Since Mr. Shieh gave up his U.S. citizenship for the deputy minister post, his family is left without many options. Additionally, Taiwan has no formal embassy here because the U.S. does not recognize Taiwanese independence from China.

Ms. Shieh believes the arrest is politically motivated. Two parties exist in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT), and the two are at increasing odds, she said, alleging that the lead prosecutor in the case against her father openly admitted that there was little on which to build a case.

"My father was appointed by the executive branch of the government, so he was appointed by the DPP," she said, but added that that all other branches of government are KMT. The DPP had been traditionally known as the opposition party, in favor of separatism from China, and generally reviled by the KMT. As such, Ms. Shieh believes there are major political forces working against her father.

"It's basically a political witch hunt," she said. "The DPP is looking for scapegoats and my father is just one of many."

The Shiehs have established a Web site, www.supportching.com, and are simply waiting for the next update on Dr. Shieh's status.

"He's just been cut off," Ms. Shieh said. "Life goes on out here, but he's the one who suffers the most."

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