Some friends and associates of mine have suggested I write a short essay on my involvement with the mission for CSB. With the release of CSB on medical parole in January, 2015, I’ve decided to take on this easy task. My involvement with FAPA and the successes achieved in rallying our Congressional friends to help with CSB’s cause do not diminish in any way the efforts of all others who have diligently pursued this humanitarian mission.

For several years, my almost routine conversations with Coen Blaauw of FAPA (Formosan Association for Public Affairs) usually centered on one main topic: What Taiwanese Americans can do to build a working relationship with members of the U.S. Congress, both in the House and Senate, to bring awareness to important issues affecting Taiwan and its people. Congressional advocacy for Taiwan was and is the ongoing goal. This support for Taiwan has become ever more critical with the meteoric rise of the communist giant across the Taiwan Strait.

But in 2011, our conversation turned to a more pressing immediate problem: the deteriorating physical and mental health of incarcerated former president Chen Shui-bian (CSB). Early on, we understood that President Ma Ying-jeou was disdainful of domestic pleas for medical parole for CSB but believed that he will pay attention to members of the U.S. Congress. So, together with FAPA, I urged key friends of Taiwanand past and current members of Congress to support medical parole for CSB.

Later that year and into 2012, it became clear that the ongoing disagreement between Taiwan government officials and the CSB volunteer medical team as to the mental and medical condition of CSB had reached a fever pitch stalemate and CSB would continue to languish in jail. We concluded that a reasonable way to hopefully settle this question is to have an independent team of private physicians from the U.S. assess CSB's condition. I decided to take on this challenge to find reputable medical professionals willing to sacrifice their valuable time to travel to Taiwan and lend their expertise to help assess the condition of CSB. This was the beginning of our mission for CSB.

At the time, because of security considerations, planning and the final decision to proceed were kept confidential but our key Congressional friends and the AIT were notified. News of this mission was not made public until the day of our departure for Taipei. My requested meeting with AIT was not cleared by the U.S. State Department

until a few days before our departure. The interest exhibited by the State Department only underscores the politically sensitive nature of issues pertaining to CSB.

My decision to get involved with CSB’s plight was also somewhat personal. Years ago during his second term, I had the privilege of meeting CSB in San Francisco when he was en route to Latin America and was one of more than a dozen individuals invited privately to meet with him in his hotel suite and later that evening be one of his guests for dinner. At the meeting in his suite, I thanked him for his sacrifice and perseverance in becoming the first native Taiwanese opposition president. As a native Taiwanese, I was proud of him. Not having been schooled in mandarin, I expressed my genuine feelings in my poor Taiwanese and in English. The political and historical importance of CSB cannot be overemphasized. He represents the Taiwanese people who elected him. His imprisonment is the imprisonment of the Taiwanese people. The dignity of CSB and of my motherland Taiwan was at stake.

In selecting the physicians, I made sure that CSB’s primary medical complaints were addressed and at that time, cardiac and breathing symptoms were the main issues. Appropriately, I searched for a pulmonologist and a cardiologist willing to volunteer for this important mission. Another requirement was that physicians had to be professionally recognized in their respective specialties and must be full professors in a teaching medical institution. U.C. Davis Medical Center/School of Medicine was one such institution. Physicians agreeing to take part in this mission had to be changed a couple of times because of the fluidity on the Taiwan side and the M.D.’s could not repeatedly alter their busy clinical and teaching responsibilities. Ultimately, Dr. Ken Yoneda, a pulmonologist and Dr. Charles Whitcomb, a cardiologist generously agreed to assist in this all important humanitarian mission. The three of us constituted the U.S. Medical Team.

Concurrently, Congressional outreach intensified with members of the Sacramento Chapter of FAPA meeting with Congressional representatives of surrounding districts. FAPA HQ likewise reached out to key Congressional friends for support for medical parole for CSB. I have never wavered in my belief that to achieve any level of success towards possible release of CSB from prison, pressure would have to come from the U.S. Congress. Effort to get the U.S. Congress involved must be intense and persistent. As stated, it is well known that Taiwan domestic pressure did not sway President Ma Ying-jeou’s apparent determination to punish CSB which amounted to political persecution. I believe that President Ma ultimately relented, foremost because of pressure from Congress and the international human rights organizations. The Sunflower Movement and especially the landslide defeat of the KMT last November formed the proverbial straws that broke the camel’s back.

Two members of the House of Representatives at the time, Dan Lungren of the 3rd District in California and Representative Robert Andrews of New Jersey were early supporters for CSB’s medical parole. My work with these two friends in Congress started years ago and over time, we developed a good working relationship. Subsequently my personal contacts were with Rep. Tom McClintock, Rep. Mike Thompson, Rep. Ami Bera, Rep. Jeff Denham, Rep. John Garamendi, former Rep. Tom Tancredo and most importantly with Rep. Steve Chabot, then Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. On at least two occasions I personally ask Chairman Chabot to visit CSB in Taiwan and both times he promised me he would and he did.

The U.S. medical team visited and evaluated CSB in Taipei Prison on June 12, 2012. Details of the Taiwan portion of our mission are omitted here as they were widely covered by the Taiwanese media. In subsequent news interviews when asked about my intentions after visiting with CSB in Taipei Prison by TV program hosts, I stated that we would submit a report to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the House of Representatives. The report confirmed that CSB suffered from various medical and mental ailments and that his condition will deteriorate if he is not release from the inhumane conditions in the prison. Our report to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was finalized and inserted into the Congressional Record of the U.S. House of Representatives. On July 30, 2013 Rep. Andrews introduced resolution HCR46 in the House of Representatives “urging the Government of Taiwan to grant former President Chen Shui-bian medical parole to ensure that he receives the highest level of medical attention.”

After my initial visit with CSB in 2012, I visited him twice at Taipei Veterans Memorial Hospital and once at Taichung Prison, all with the assistance of Dr. C.D. Kuo, although I communicated with Bryan Chen on a regular basis. The last time I visited CSB was after his release in his home in Kaohsiung. From June, 2012 to July, 2015, I visited him five times and witnessed firsthand his progressive physical and mental deterioration. My last visit in his home in Kaohsiung confirmed our reported recommendation that it would be best for him to recover in his home environment.

My work dovetailed with FAPA’s persistent efforts in reaching out to Congress. There were numerous behind the scenes effort both locally and nationally to generate congressional support for CSB’s medical parole. Over the past years, numerous prominent international figures and organizations have appealed for the release of CSB, including Freedom House, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, Liberal International, former Alaska senator and governor Frank Murkowski, the late former AIT Chairman of the Board Nat Bellocchi and others.

I must acknowledge the tireless dedication and sacrifices of Dr. C. D. Kuo of the volunteer medical team and Bryan Chen for his never ending commitment to his father and Johnny Huang for his assistance in many ways. Dr. C. D. Kuo met with us the day we arrived in Taipei where we received our first briefing on CSB’s medical condition and in subsequent detailed briefings with the full volunteer medical team.

In Taipei, Tsai Trong Rong was particularly helpful in bringing attention to our visit through his Formosa TV network and his dedication to Taiwan Independence was absolute. I would visit him on no less than four occasions before his passing. Last but not least, there are certain individuals whose valuable assistance I must acknowledge but must remain anonymous for a host of reasons.

To help in the understanding of the results of the proactive efforts of FAPA in helping to achieve medical parole for CSB, the following is a chronology of the more noteworthy events:

March 22, 2012
FAPA urges U.S. Government to call for medical parole for former President CSB.

April 20, 2012
Congressman Dan Lungren (R-CA) releases a letter addressed to Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), co-chairs of the U.S. Congress Tom Lantos Human rights Commission, strongly urging them to investigate the continued incarceration of Taiwan’s former President CSB.

April 26, 2012
Rep. Ed Royce calls for medical parole for President Chen.

June 11, 2012
U.S. Medical Team visits CSB in Taipei Prison.

July 12, 2012
U.S. Medical Team completes report to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission entitled, “The Effects of Incarceration on the Mental and Physical Health of Former President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan”.

July 13, 2012
U.S. Representatives Robert Andrews (D-NJ) and Dan Lungren (R-CA) submit the report titled: “The Effects of Incarceration On the Mental and Physical Health of Former President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan” to the Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and James McGovern (D-MA) calling for medical parole for CSB.

October 24, 2012
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown urges AIT Director Marut to visit former President CSB.

November 8, 2012
I travel to SFO to brief former Congressman Tom Tancredo before his departure for Taiwan to visit with CSB. Briefing included his agenda in Taiwan and what to expect from media and reference was made to the findings of the U.S. Medical Team.

November 21, 2012
After visiting with CSB in prison, former Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo decries Ma government refusal to grant medical parole to CSB.

March 12, 2013
Rep. Robert Andrews calls in a letter to Secretary of State Kerry to take stance on continued incarceration of CSB.

March 13,, 2013
The Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) calls on President Ma Ying-jeou to grant medical parole for CSB. It said it supported the conclusion made by Joseph Lin – who led the U.S. medical team that examined CSB – who said that the conditions under which the former president was being held constituted a “gross miscarriage of justice and human rights.”

April 17, 2013
Chairman Steve Chabot of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific raised the issue of former President Chen’s incarceration in a hearing with Sec. of State John Kerry referring to the imprisonment as “criminalization of politics” and he continue to do so in each and every Congressional hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

April 26, 2013
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) announces his intention to visit CSB. The Cincinnati congressman is a founder of the Taiwan Caucus and has followed CSB’s case closely. Within a week of his announcement, CSB was clandestinely transferred by the Taiwan prison authorities to Taichung Prison with much improved facilities. Chabot is House subcommittee chairman on Asia and the Pacific and made a fact-finding tour of South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan where he visited CSB in Taichung Prison together with subcommittee ranking member Rep. Eni Faleomavaega.

July 30, 2013
Rep. Andrews introduces resolution HCR 46 in the House of Representatives “urging the Government of Taiwan to grant former President Chen Shui-bian medical parole to ensure that he receives the highest level of medical attention.”

February 20, 2014
In a meeting in the presidential office, Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) (as part of a nine member Congressional delegation led by House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) personally urge President Ma Ying-jeou to release CSB on medical parole.

Our work continued through 2014 and we persisted in raising the issue of medical parole for CSB at every opportunity. Embarking on this mission allowed me the rare opportunity of working with individuals with similar passion and goals and this privilege was a once in a lifetime experience for me. We are all looking forward to a permanent medical parole for CSB.

Davis, CA