The Republic of China in-exile’s Ministry of Justice has removed prison pictures of former ROC President Chen Shui-bian from its website. The photographs from inside prison walls were made public by the Ministry on Monday, became the subject of vigorous debate on Tuesday, and were removed on Wednesday.
Although the ROC is not offering an explanation, the removal of the Chen photographs followed complaints from Democratic Progressive Party legislators that the pictures violated confidentiality and Chen Shui-bian’s right to privacy. The Ministry posted the photos to quiet critics of Chen’s imprisonment who say the former leader is being mistreated and is a political prisoner.
According to an informed source at the Formosan Association for Human Rights, the photos and news release led to a sharp exchange on Tuesday between Warden Feng Tze-chei(方子傑)and Kaohsiung City Councilor Cheng Hsin-chu(鄭新助).
Warden Feng met with Councilor Cheng during Cheng’s special visit to the prison to see Chen Shui-bian. Feng proclaimed over and over again that he tried his best to make the conditions better for Chen but he had to follow all the orders from his superior, who is the Minister of Justice, Tseng Yon-fu(曾勇夫).
Cheng told Feng that the medical parole cases he allowed were not medical paroles but funeral paroles. Feng immediately proclaimed that he did not make parole decisions, instead it is the Ministry of Justice; Chen is not sick enough and MOJ only approves terminally ill people for medical parole.
Cheng Hsin-chu then told the warden that the MOJ website violated Chen’s privacy rights and demanded removal of the photographs. Feng Tze-chei (方子傑)stated the matter was not his to decide.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the Chen prison photos stirred up internet discussions within the Taiwanese-American community about overcrowding and the tiny cell that Chen Shui-bian is confined to 23 hours per day.
Ma Ying-jeou, distancing himself from the mistreatment of his successor, told Taipei reporters on Tuesday that politics should not be involved in the matter and that the MOJ would be guided by the law and that medical decisions would be made by medical professionals.
Chen Shui-bian is serving a lengthy prison sentence for alleged corruption. The harsh conditions of Chen’s confinement and the denial of requested medical care has now put a spotlight on Chen’s conviction.
||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.