Prisons always tell stories, whether their governments like it or not. Dr. King and Nelson Mandela had a lot to say that move millions of people to grasp the reality of their struggle. Even guilty stories of bad treatment can close a jail like Alcatraz and the infamous prison in Morocco that had used torture daily. Prisons tell good and bad stories. Usually in prisons, there is a difference made for those that used violence and those who have not, but are still deemed corrupt. Those who disrespect life demand carefulness in prison because after their trial; they got nothing to lose. Those prisoners who are still in the process of challenging their non violent convictions have a lot to lose or win.
The former president of Taiwan, Mr. Chen, fits this latter category. Convicted of nonviolent crime, he has been sentenced to 19 years in prison for taking/using money in illegal ways. Chen and his many supporters believe that his conviction was political because, after four years of trials, he has been cleared four of six cases. Of the two convicted cases, two prominent judges wrote articles to point out flawed procedures; government influence and biased judicial discretion (see links below).
After 50 years of Japanese colonization of Taiwan, it was followed by a long history of Taiwan being stuck with the losing soldiers of China under the corrupt dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek and his son. Today, 80% of the Taiwan look upon themselves a people determined to keep free of another big power dominating them. 20% of the nation feels they want to nonviolently unite with Beijing and create a seamless unity ala Hawaii to the USA. This split is real and highly contested. Chen who was president for 8 years favored moving away from Chinese power. The new president wants to get closer to China.
When President Chen was convicted for taking bribes, he was dumped into a 5 by 12 cell with another prisoner and a smallish toilet. For four years, his health was neglected, and his needs were ignored. A tumor was discovered in early March and a second one was discovered in late April in his prostate, and yet, two months later, he still has not received a biopsy or treatment. He has been denied access to his basic human rights by his former countrymen. Chen has been turned into a scapegoat for those who believe Taiwan should resist the yoke of China's power.
For 4 years, he was treated like a moaner and a groaner, rather than a prisoner with legitimate complaints. This is where Chen's story gets to be a tale. The anger of the government now lead by President Ma against Chen seeps into the prison. Chen's non violence conviction is treated like he was a violent criminal. His health was not dealt with properly and this is where the story morphs into an epic. The politics of Taiwan become the cruel jailer. Those interested in getting closer to China listen to those voices and those voices from China. Chen's tenure in prison then is seen by 80% of the nation as a symbol of animosity, not just to Chen but to the large majority of the nation.
Thus, the 80% with a flawed and convicted leader tries to tell Chen's story to the world. No one is listening because growing might of the communist/capitalist nation near by
with debatable roots in Taiwan. One person, Mr. Chen, thus becomes a soccer ball in this historical and important debate. It would not be urgent if his health were good. It is not. The neglect of his health as well as the conditions he has been kept in reflect a determined government, hell bent on destruction of the symbol of keeping away from China.
In the USA, few have helped. A couple of Republicans like Lungren and Joyce but not the Human Rights Commission of Tom Lantos chaired by Wolf and Mc Govern. Chen was an ally of the USA as a president of Taiwan but no former or present US President has helped him or spoken out. The power of China crosses even oceans now. Silence helps destroy a legitimate symbol of the majority of Taiwan citizens. Thus, a simple prison story becomes a tale not on the prisoner but on his jailers, at home and abroad.
The Huffington Post / Jack Healey
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