FAPA Statement On The Transfer Of Former President Chen Shui-bian To A Prison Hospital In Taichung
The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) – a Taiwanese-American grassroots organization based in Washington DC – today expressed dismay and its deepest concern about the transfer of former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian from the Veterans General Hospital (TVGH) in the North of Taipei to the Pei-de Prison Hospital in Taichung.
The way the transfer was implemented by the Taiwan Ministry of Justice flies in the face of norms and standards in a democratic country: it was done before dawn on April 19th, 2013, without any prior notification to the family or to the doctors treating Chen at the TVGH. According to one of the doctors, Dr. Ko Wen-tze, the former President was not even given an opportunity to bring his medical prescriptions, and the prison authorities later had to return to the TVGH to pick up the prescriptions.
Additionally, according to press reports from Taiwan, the Pei-de Prison Hospital in Taichung is a poorly equipped prison clinic, and certainly does not have adequate psychiatric facilities needed for treatment of the former President.
FAPA strongly urges the Obama Administration and the US Congress to express their deepest concerns to President Ma Ying-jeou and urge him to release President Chen on medical parole. This would be in keeping with the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which stipulates that “The preservation and enhancement of the human rights of all the people on Taiwan are hereby reaffirmed as objectives of the United States.” (Sec. 2.3).
In Taiwan some 17 out of 23 city and county councils have adopted resolutions in support of medical parole, while many members of US Congress have also spoken out on the issue. Indeed, just today, US Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Kerry (attached) saying that the United States “must clearly express [itself] in favor of a medical parole on humanitarian grounds as well.”
The argument by the Ministry of Justice in Taipei that the former President “doesn’t qualify” for medical parole is groundless and lays bare its strong political bias. Taiwan’s Prison Act does contain clear provisions regarding medical parole, and legal specialists in Taiwan such as Taipei District Judge Hung Yin-hua have stated that former President Chen clearly qualifies under the law.
On Wednesday April 17th 2013, US Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH), who serves as the Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, raised the issue of former President Chen’s incarceration in a hearing with Secretary of State Kerry, referring to the imprisonment as “criminalization of politics.”
Secretary Kerry responded that he would follow up on the issue. FAPA urges Secretary Kerry to stand up for the principles of freedom and democracy, and make it clear to the Taiwan authorities that continued imprisonment of former President Chen is severely damaging to the international image of Taiwan as a free and democratic nation, and that release on medical parole is the only humanitarian and responsible solution.
Since early 2012, FAPA has called the attention of the US government to the deteriorating physical and mental condition of the former President on a number of occasions, including a March 20th 2012 letter to President Obama, and some 5,500 petitions to members of the US Congress in the Summer of 2012.
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April 19, 2013
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Thank you for the letter from your Legislative Affairs Office dated March 14th 2013, which was in response to my letter dated March 1st 2013, concerning the prison conditions and medical care for former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian.
Unfortunately, said letter displays a rather stand-offish wait-and-see attitude on behalf of the US institutions representing our country in our relations with the Taiwan authorities.
As is clear from the many reports regarding former President Chen’s health, his poor physical and mental condition have been caused by the deplorable prison conditions under which he was held for the past years until September 12, 2012, when he was transferred to his present location at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
That a former head of state is treated in such a manner is clearly in violation of the values of democracy and human rights, that we as a nation hold high. I believe that as a human rights respecting nation, we, i.e. our government and the institutions that represent us abroad, need not only maintain our human rights standards here but also express our concern when we deem these standards violated or trampled upon elsewhere.
In the case of former President Chen there have been widespread calls for medical parole, including by the ruling party’s mayor of Taipei as well as by some 17 of the 23 city and county councils in Taiwan itself. I therefore believe that we must clearly express ourselves in favor of a medical parole on humanitarian grounds as well.
I also understand that US legal experts such as Prof. Jerome Cohen of New York University, an expert on Taiwan law, considers the trial proceedings against the former President flawed at best. I request that the AIT and the State Department take a closer look at the legal case against the former president, and determine whether the procedures followed by the prosecution were above board, and whether the trial and judgment can be considered fair, objective and politically neutral.
I look forward to hearing from you on this important matter. Thank you very much. If you have any questions, please contact Benjamin Culver of my legislative staff.
Robert E. Andrews
Member of Congress