Chen Shui-bian, former President of the Republic of China in-exile, was transferred yesterday, Oct. 23, to a psychiatric unit at the government-operated Honorable Veterans Hospital. Chen was transferred after hospital doctors concurred that the ex-leader was suffering from severe depression. The hospital announced plans to return Chen to Taipei Prison after his depression is brought under control.
Chen Shui-bain is serving a 17 year sentence for alleged corruption following a controversial trial marred by allegations of perjured testimony, a politically-influenced judge, and an after-hours skit by courtroom personnel mocking Chen. Chen has been confined to a tiny cell 23 hours a day since 2008 in harsh conditions.
The punishment cell that does not permit Chen to stretch out while sleeping is devoid of furniture and Chen is forced to either stand or sit on his thin bedroll. Food is dispensed through a small slot near the floor and the bright fluorescent light is on 24 hours a day. Chen and his cellmate must use a no-flush toilet in Chen’s half of the cell. The other prisoner is designated the cell captain and was required to force-feed Chen water when prison officials suspected Chen was faking urinary problems.
After a week-long visit to Taiwan by the Human Rights Action Center from Washington, D.C. to investigate complaints that Chen was being denied medical treatment, the former president was moved to the Honorable Veterans Hospital for tests. During his confinement Chen has experienced difficulty breathing, urinating, sleep apnea, slurred speech and stuttering. Chen’s own doctors say that tests show Chen has suffered 10 cerebral infarcts or mini-strokes.
Prior to the hospital transfer Chen was diagnosed with heart problems while in prison and while being examined for his cardiac issues learned he was unknowingly being administered a psychiatric medication, lorazepan, without his consent.
Chen Shui-bian’s supporters say he did not get a fair trial, his conditions of imprisonment are inhumane, and that he is a political prisoner. While President of the ROC from 2000-20008, Chen drifted Taiwan away from China although he did not take steps to obtain independence for Taiwan. Chen now supports an independent Taiwan and believes the future of the island with 23 million residents is secure.
he United States installed the Republic of China on the island of Formosa, as the Japanese territory was formerly called, at the end of World War II. After the Kuomintang forces of the Chinese Nationalists were defeated in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek moved his government in-exile to Taiwan where his troops were already controlling the streets with a harsh martial law.
In the mid-1980’s, under martial law, Chen Shui-bain did become a political prisoner for his duties as editor of Neo Formosa magazine. Chen’s successor in office, Ma Ying-jeou, also controls the Kuomintang political party. Ma, who holds the keys to Chen’s jail cell, is evidently not eager to see his political rival get out of confinement. Ma’s overtures to the People’s Republic of China would be upset if Chen’s advocacy for self-determination became a public rallying-cry. The image of a broken Chen Shui-bian doesn’t gain Ma any favorable publicity, but it does send a stern warning to those who oppose Ma’s government.
In the United States, Representative Charles Berman [D-CA], the ranking member of the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has added his voice to those calling for medical release for Chen Shui-bian. Representative Berman wrote to Ma Ying-jeou, “Granting his release would demonstrate your compassion.”