FAPA Pleased With Release Of Former President Chen, But Critical Of The Bureaucratic Delays And Unreasonable Conditions
Today, former President of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian was released on medical parole enabling him to receive adequate treatment for his medical conditions in a home environment.
President Chen, who served as Taiwan’s president between 2000 and 2008, was imprisoned on charges of corruption only months after leaving office. However, many international observers, including former Harvard Law Professor Jerome Cohen, identified multiple lapses in due process and other serious procedural flaws by the prosecution, raising questions about whether the judicial proceedings against Chen were politically motivated.
Initially, Mr. Chen was serving out his 19-year sentence in Taoyuan County prison, where he was confined virtually 24 hours a day to an undersized cell of about 50 square ft, which he shared with one other cellmate. The cell had a toilet, but no bed, desk or chair. After an international outcry, he was transferred to Taipei Veterans General Hospital in September 2012, where his health condition started to improve.
However, in April 2013 he was suddenly transferred to Pei-teh Prison in Taichung in Central Taiwan, prompting several suicide attempts. Since then, Mr. Chen’s physical and psychological health further declined.
Over the past years, numerous prominent international figures and organizations have appealed for the release of the former President, including Freedom House, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, Liberal International, former Alaska senator and governor Frank Murkowski, former AIT Chairman of the Board Nat Bellocchi, US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and a number of US Congressmen, including Repr. Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Ed Royce (R-CA) and others.
The appeals for his release became stronger in mid-November 2014, on the occasion of the sixth “anniversary” of his arrest, and intensified after the political landslide won by the democratic opposition of the DPP in the November 29th local elections.
However, during the month of December 2014 Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice, the Agency of Corrections, the prosecutors, and the court system threw the hot potato as to who would be responsible for his release back and forth, delaying his release time and again.
The most flagrant excuse was that Pei-teh Prison could not process the required documents on December 31st, as the report from the government-appointed medical team “had been delayed due to a traffic jam.” As a result of this foot-dragging and these delays, former President Chen was forced to spend Christmas and the New Year in his jail, instead of at home with his family.
In addition, the Ministry of Justice attached a number of demeaning conditions to the parole: that it is only for an initial period of one month, and can be extended only to a total of four months. The Ministry also added that none of the parole time will be counted as part of his sentence.
FAPA President Mark Kao, Ph.D. states: “The conditions imposed by the Ministry of Justice are totally outrageous in view of the fact that the former President suffers from a number of severe, chronic physical and mental ailments. Attaching these conditions is akin to playing political football with the health of President Chen. It will also not bring about a much-needed political reconciliation in Taiwan.”
Dr. Kao added: “While we as Taiwanese-Americans are happy that former President Chen has now finally been release on medical parole, we are angered and dismayed by the delaying tactics of the Ma administration. This was an utterly contemptible display of bureaucratic incompetence and malicious vindictiveness.”
“Ultimately, Chen’s six years of incarceration has severely blemished the Ma government’s human rights record and status in the international community. It is the ultimate proof that under President Ma Ying-jeou there has been a serious erosion of justice. It is also evidence that the judicial system continues to be tainted by the political bias imposed by Mr. Ma.”
“We express our deep appreciation for the broad international support for Chen’s parole, expressed over the past years. We are sure that these international expressions of concern have helped bring about the release of former President Chen.”