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Home Editorials of Interest Articles of Interest Inside a locked ROC hospital psychiatric cell with ex-President Chen Shui-bian

Inside a locked ROC hospital psychiatric cell with ex-President Chen Shui-bian

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Chen Shui-bian is moved from his prison cell surrounded by guards

Taiwan Political Prisoner Report, Jan. 7, 2013. Because of serious health issues and severe depression, Republic of China in-exile former President Chen Shui-bian had been moved from his tiny punishment cell at Taipei Prison to General Veterans Hospital before my arrival to Taiwan. The move followed urgent pleas by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and a team from the Washington D.C. based Human Rights Action Center as well as a prestigious panel of volunteer doctors.

Restricted visiting privileges required me to be accompanied by a member of the Legislative Yuan and prohibited my use of a camera or recording equipment. Legislator Mark Chen was my escort and translator. Mark Chen, no relation to the imprisoned ex-leader, is serving his third term as a member of the Legislative Yuan and is a senior member of Democratic Progressive Party. As we rode together to the hospital the legislator described the case as “a personal tragedy and a national tragedy.”

Before entering the hospital we were greeted by a half-dozen loyal supporters of Chen Shui-bian that maintain a regular vigil at his places of confinement.

After a maze-like passage through hospital corridors, far from the grand front lobby, we entered a narrow hallway with a small sign that read “Psychiatric Unit” in English. Suddenly we were outside a black solid steel door which when swung open revealed a small plain room with roll-away bed, small table, and several chairs.

A lone flower sat on the table below a small window overlooking a building courtyard. The walls were bare and the room had a cold, stark, gloomy feel

Ex-President Chen was seated in the middle of the room. Mark Chen sat beside the former leader while I sat in front of Chen several feet away. Behind me were two plain-clothes guards with stenographic equipment recording our entire conversation.

I recognized Chen Shui-bian from news photographs and my own visit with him at the Taipei Detention Center two-and-half years ago. However, it was only the face I recognized, the man was different. Chen made very little eye contact, never smiled once, had a flat effect, spoke softly almost in a whisper, and seemed broken in spirit.

I knew the guards would not let me have much time with Chen so I pushed forward with my questions.

I asked, “Two years ago when I interviewed you at the Taipei Detention Center you said you had done nothing that President Lee or President Ma had not also done, is that still your position?”

Chen Shui-bian denied any wrongdoing and reiterated that he relied on the standard procedures of special fund accounting used by all other ROC presidents.

Chen explained, “This dates back from over eight years when the situation reached a stress point related to management of special funds. The rules were changed regarding whether campaign funds could be used for public or personal use.”

“I used some of the funds for clear-cut public use and used some for special use,” said Chen.

“The first time the special funds were given and used they were called National Affairs Fund and only for the President. But special funds grew to many funds used throughout the government and the system was changed including the name of the campaign funds regulations,” Chen said. “I believe the government was trying to do something to change the system. Therefore, anytime anyone using the special funds was to be considered innocent in an effort to get rid of problems with the system.”

“I never took a penny I was not entitled to and did not do anything Ma has not also done.”

I reminded Chen that two years ago when I visited him in jail, he said his case was linked to Ma’s overtures to China and asked if that was still his position.

“The timing had something to do with my conviction. In 2008, at that moment it had something to do with my ‘One China, One Taiwan’. Ma’s political connections and opposition to independent status was involved. I did not agree to the charges of graft. It seems to me that Ma was trying to create a friendlier atmosphere with China and sanitize by getting rid of Chen.”

“More facts have been cited following my trial. A refugee from Peking University in China wrote a couple of books, both fairly detailed and had lots of evidence of persecution. One book is The Incarcerated Taiwan by Yuan Hong-bing,” said Chen, as he reached into the table drawer and pulled out a copy of Yuan’s book.

Chen summed up the linkage of his prosecution to overtures to China, “It is even more true now than then, as Ma has moved the country closer to China.”

Meanwhile, the guards wanted to know how many more questions I had, stating we only had a limited time left.

Next: Chen Shui-bian insists that he is a political prisoner

For more information on Taiwan's unresolved status

Source: Michael Richardson - Boston Progressive Examiner



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Anti-nuclear activists protest near the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday, calling on the public to join a nationwide anti-nuclear rally on March 9.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

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