U. S. Representative Dan Lungren (R-CA) has called for Congressional investigation of the treatment of former Republic of China in-exile President Chen Shui-bian who has been serving a lengthy sentence for alleged corruption since soon after he left office nearly four years ago.
Representative Lungren asked the Lantos Commission, a 79-member caucus of members of Congress, to investigate “disturbing reports” about Chen’s imprisonment that have appeared in the Taiwanese news media.
Dan Lungren’s written request cited the human rights clause of the Taiwan Relations Act as the jurisdictional basis for a Congressional inquiry: “The preservation and enhancement of the human rights of all the people on Taiwan are hereby reaffirmed as objectives of the United States.”
Mark Kao, head of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, hailed Lungren’s request in a formal statement: “The people and the government of Taiwan look to the United States as the standard bearer for democracy and human rights around the world, and it is encouraging to see that the recent alarming developments in president Chen’s situation have not gone unnoticed.”
Chen Shui-bian, convicted after a controversial trial, has been suffering from heart, respiratory, and prostate problems while in prison and been denied medical leave to receive treatment other than that offered by prison doctors. A recent emergency trip to a hospital for Chen’s heart condition led to the disclosure that the former ROC president had been secretly drugged for 14 months with lorazepan, a psychiatric medication, by prison doctors.
John Hsieh, of the Taiwan Civil Rights Litigation Organization, has called the drugging of Chen “evil” and suggested it was a prosecutable violation of the Torture Victims Protection Act.
The Formosan Association for Human Rights has called Chen’s treatment “inhuman” and has been critical of the cramped jail conditions of Chen, forced to remain long periods in a tiny cell with no bed, table, or chair.
Lungren’s appeal to the Lantos Commission noted that Chen’s “corruption charges are widely believed by international observers and legal scholars to be politically motivated.” The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s formal mission is to “promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights.”
Chen Shui-bian’s treatment in prison recently emerged in the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in a hearing on China. Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH) used a question and answer session to criticize Ma Ying-jeou’s Kuomintang administration: “I think for an administration to come in and essentially jail the previous administration is a tragedy.”
Sadly, the United States has a long history ignoring human rights abuses by the Republic of China in-exile. Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty that ended World War II with Japan, the United States is the principle occupying power of Taiwan, as the island of Formosa is commonly known. However, American presidents have turned a blind eye to decades of harsh treatment of the island people by the Chinese Nationalist regime imposed by U.S. military forces in October 1945.
Cold War politics have kept Taiwan locked in a time warp of “strategic ambiguity” and under continuing occupation by the ROC government that retreated to the island in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to the People’s Republic of China.
In 2009, the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals called on President Barack Obama to determine the sovereignty of the island calling Taiwan’s plight “political purgatory.”
Chen Shui-bian is now experiencing his own purgatory in a ROC jail cell while growing criticism of America’s proxy government over the former Japanese territory is heard in Washington, D.C.
Taiwan’s unresolved status has kept the densely populated island of 23 million people out of the United Nations and barred from membership in the World Health Organization.