Note: Attorney General Rob McKenna and fellow attorneys general are in Taiwan this week as guests of the Taiwan Ministry of Justice, reciprocating for years of visits from Taiwanese prosecutors to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Summer Meeting.
Taipei Impressions - First Day (October 8)
I'm in Taiwan with seven other Attorneys General on an exchange visit with our counterparts here. Taiwan's Ministry of Justice generously has brought us here, just as they annually send their own prosecutors to the NAAG summer meeting.
Taipei is a beautiful city, lush with trees and surrounded by green mountains. Its wide boulevards are lined by a mix of older five-six story buildings and elegant new towers, usually containing street-level retail space surmounted by apartments, condominiums or offices. Although densely populated, it doesn't feel as crowded as Tokyo or Beijing.
The word of the day on Taipei's streets is "scooter," as in the thousands of Vespa-style motorbikes that zip in and out of traffic. The scooters simply get through traffic congestion more easily, and can be parked on the sidewalk. (No word on mortality rates, however!)
So far we've avoided the neighborhood typhoon which is hitting Japan today. It's cloudy but a pleasant 75 degrees or so and, notwithstanding the semi-tropical climate, the humidity's not bad.
We've had a good day of meetings, beginning with the presiding officer of the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan's unicameral national legislature. President Wang's position is analogous to our Speaker of the House, and he is a very engaging leader who is serving his fourth term. After meeting him, I understand why he has earned a strong reputation for working effectively with diverse interests and ideologies. He has also served as President of Taiwan's baseball Major League, which in a baseball-crazy nation is another major testament to his skills.
A high-rated program on TV today: Live coverage of the first game in the Yankees-Twins series, broadcast from the game with two Taiwanese commentators.
We enjoyed a terrific lunch at one of Taipei's most famous dumpling restaurants. Making lunch even more special for me was the presence of Dr. Charles Lee, Dean of Student Affairs at Christ's College in Taipei and my high school debate partner from Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Charles and I had not seen one another for 30 years, and it was great fun to catch up with him.
We visited the National School for Judges and Prosecutors in the afternoon where Taiwan's legal elite are trained. Eight percent of law students who take the national bar exam actually pass it, and only two to three percent of those who go on to take the admission exam for the National School pass that test. Two percent of eight percent equals a very elite system for selecting judges and prosecutors -- the best of the best, they feel -- which is a system copied from France long ago. Maybe it's why they don't believe they need juries.
Our next stop was at the Supreme Prosecutor's Office, where we met with Prosecutor General Chen Tsung Min. Like the United States Attorney General, Mr. Chen is his nation's "top cop." We took the opportunity to ask about the corruption trial of Taiwan's former president, first lady and their son. As we entered the building we saw a group of demonstrators who were protesting the former president's detention. They were outnumbered by the TV cameramen -- i.e., it was a small demonstration.
Now it's on to a formal dinner hosted by Prosecutor General Chen. More to follow tomorrow.
All the best,