Thu, Aug 02, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Crying out for humanitarianism

By Michelle Wang 王美琇

Ko Wen-che (柯文哲), a doctor of thoracic surgery and trauma at National Taiwan University Hospital, talked about his examination of the former president.

Chen asked if he could get a physical examination at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. When Ko asked why he wanted to go to that hospital, Chen said: “The last time I have slept in a bed was when I went to Taoyuan General Hospital for a check-up. I really want to sleep in a bed.”

As a result of having been locked up in a small dark space and lying on the floor for so long, the doctors at Taoyuan General Hospital and the doctors on Chen’s medical team followed up on the thorough medical check received at the hospital by saying that Chen had contracted several illnesses, including coronary artery problems, hyperlipidemia, prostate blood clots, gastroesophageal reflux disease, duodenal wall inflammation, rectal erosion, a collapsed left lower lung lobe, bleeding vas deferens, arthritis, autonomic nerve disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and major depression.

One of the members of the US team of human rights doctors that visited Chen, Ken Yoneda, said after the visit that he found it unimaginable that a former president would be locked up in a prison with such low living standards. Joseph Lin, another member of the team, said the environment in Chen’s cell was inhumane and that in addition to having been diagnosed with heart and gastroesophageal problems, Chen also said that he sometimes felt like he was choking and that he was about to die.

The US medical team concluded that Chen was suffering from serious physical and mental problems caused by long-term isolation, monitoring and stress and that he needed immediate and comprehensive medical treatment and an improved prison environment otherwise his health would continue to deteriorate.

On July 12, US senators Robert Andrews and Dan Lungren presented a report titled The Effects of Incarceration on the Mental and Physical Health of Former President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. The 24-page report strongly urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to grant medical parole to Chen on humanitarian grounds.

No democracy around the world would dare treat a former president in such a brazenly evil manner, even one guilty of committing a crime, and there are also many people who believe the trials that found Chen guilty were marked by judicial flaws and violations of the due course of law.

The presidency is a symbol of national dignity and honor. The Ma administration’s treatment of Chen not only tramples all over the presidency, national dignity, honor and democratic values, it is also a sign of fascist-style power struggle — using the state apparatus to suppress a political enemy.

After I finished the interview and said goodbye to Chen, I took two steps, and then turned around to look at him. I saw how he waved and touched his knee. It reminded me that he has developed joint problems in his fingers and his knees after spending such a long time writing lying on the floor. My head spun with emotions.

Walking out of the prison, something Ko had said rang in my ears: “Is it really in Taiwan’s best interest to let Chen die in prison?”

What kind of regime would let a former president suffer so much that he is on the verge of losing his mind and close to dying? What would make the incumbent president of a democracy treat a predecessor in this way? Is Ma a cruel person or is it that Taiwanese society itself is cruel and heartless?

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