The former head of the Republic of China in-exile, Chen Shui-bian, was moved from his tiny cell at Taipei Prison to the Honorable Veterans Hospital following a report from the Human Rights Action Center based in Washington, D.C.
The HRAC spent a week in Taiwan reviewing Chen Shui-bain’s conditions of imprisonment and issued a critical report calling Chen’s conditions “harsh treatment” and strongly urged immediate hospitalization for medical tests.
Team members expressed serious concerns about the selection of the hospital by the ROC Ministry of Justice: “Assignment to a government military hospital, itself, draws into question the degree of independence it can exercise.”
“We believe that, in the absence of an agreement by the former President of the examination panel and the terms under which these examinations will take place, the planned examinations at Honorable Veterans Hospital cannot be considered to be independent.”
Ministry officials agreed to allow Chen Shui-bian’s volunteer medical team to participate in his treatment but then demanded the doctors sign an agreement to not release medical information without permission from the prison. Dr. C.D. Kuo refused to sign the gag order and has now been barred from consulting with HVH doctors.
Chen Shui-bian has had trouble breathing and cardiac problems. Chen is depressed and also recently suffered a mini-stroke and has been in pain from urinary blockage.
The refusal to share medical information with Chen Shui-bian’s doctors and the selection of a military hospital to conduct tests led to a sharp exchange in the Legislative Yuan on Monday, Sept. 24, between Ministry of Justice head Tseng Yung-fu and Kuomintang legislator Hsieh Kao-liang. Hsieh demanded to know why the military hospital was imposed on Chen. Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-Ming accused Tseng of lying about no involvement in prison decisions by Ma Ying-jeou.
The exclusion of Dr. Kuo raised fears by Chen Shui-bian and his supporters about the quality of treatment he will receive in the hospital and led to Dr. Kuo’s decision to protect his patient by sleeping outside Chen’s hospital room.
Chen Shui-bian’s supporters say the actions of Dr. Kuo remind them of Chen himself as a young attorney stepping forward to defend the Kaohsiung 8 during the martial law period in 1980. Chen ultimately earned himself a year in prison for alleged libel for editing the pro-democracy magazine Neo-Formosa
The HRAC team issued a call to Ma Ying-jeou, the successor of Chen Shui-bian: “Having visited with President Chen, learned of his treatment, and seen the profound deterioration of his health that has resulted, we look forward to hearing what measures the Government of Ma Ying-jeou seeks to undertake to ensure the well-being of President Chen.”
||Michael Richardson, Taiwan Policy Examiner
Michael Richardson is a freelance journalist and independent political consultant. Richardson writes about progressive issues, politics and election law. Richardson is also working on a book about the FBI and the Black Panthers.