Jailed former Taiwanese President on hunger strike

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2007 file photo of Chen Shui-bian.
Image: Rico Chen.

Following detention stemming from corruption allegations, former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian is reportedly on hunger strike. His lawyer, Cheng Wen-lung, stated that Chen has not eaten since since his admission to Taipei's Tucheng jail on Wednesday. He went on to tell reporters the hunger strike is to continue, "to protest the death of justice and the regression of democracy."

Chen, from the Democratic Progressive Party, was President for two four-year terms, from March 2000 until March 2008. In 2006 Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, was indicted on charges of embezzlement, forgery, and perjury over money sent to overseas bank accounts. Chen claimed these were surplus funds from election campaigns and he had no knowledge of his wife transferring the money to the Cayman Islands.

Chen was succeeded as President by Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang, commonly referred to as the Chinese Nationalist Party.

The former President may face up to four months confinement, which prosecutors argue is necessary to prevent him from colluding with his alleged co-conspirators. Nine other people are being held in relation to the same corruption allegations.

As yet, no formal charges have actually been laid against Chen. DPP politicians and other observers have criticised his detention and stated that it was politically-motivated in order to smear the DPP, as was the decision to make him wear handcuffs in public. Recently other high-profile members of the DPP have been detained without charge, whilst Chinese Nationalist Party members also under investigation for alleged corruption have reportedly not been jailed or their cases have been put on hold.

Meanwhile, AIT Director Steve Young, the de-facto ambassador of the United States to Taiwan, asked for a "transparent, fair, and impartial" resolution to the case.

The matter was also raised in the Dutch parliament. MPs from ruling and opposition parties, asked the foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, if he was aware that "Chen and a number of politicians of the DPP [had] been arrested on suspicion of abuse of power while in power."

The MPs asked that Parliament be briefed on the situation and whether the foreign minister would press the Taiwanese government to apply basic principles of the rule of law in cases such as Chen's.