End this heartless treatment
A good man, who I corresponded with for many years and who was prepared to come to Alaska to speak at my invitation, now languishes in a cramped and dismal prison cell: Former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Taiwanese know his story — from human rights lawyer to president — and how former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) turned the tables on his own authoritarian Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), ushering in Taiwan’s vibrant, yet still fragile and imperfect, democracy.
After two terms, Chen peacefully relinquished power and the KMT, under Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), returned to office and pounced.
Accusing Chen of financially-related crimes, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Many in the international community consider his trial to have been politically motivated and judicially unfair. Furthermore, the KMT — one of the world’s richest and most corrupt political parties — accusing anyone of financial crimes is suspect, sadly hypocritical and even laughable.
Chen’s “real crimes,” in my opinion, were wresting power from the KMT in 2000 and pouring salt onto still-festering wounds by winning re-election in 2004. He also dared to discuss Taiwanese independence, anathema to Beijing and its increasingly chummy friends in Ma’s government.
Now, Chen rots in a tiny cell — little more than a large toilet — for 23 hours a day.
He is forced to eat, write, sit and sleep on the floor.
Even in the US’ notorious prison system, the most horrific criminals get better treatment than this. Chen has also been given the anti-anxiety drug Ativan without his consent for more than a year.
Is there a remnant of the former Soviet gulag system operating in Taiwan?
In October last year, my wife and I drove to Chen’s boyhood home in Guantian District (官田).
Local villagers eagerly escorted us to the home where his mother — Chen Lee Shen (陳李慎) — still lives and knocked on the door.
We were a bit embarrassed when we woke her from an afternoon nap.
My wife quickly apologized and engaged her, respectfully, in local dialect. In the dark room behind the half-opened door, I saw an elderly and distraught mother who simply wanted her son, the former president, back home.
I suggest Ma Ying-jeou’s own mother sit down with her vindictive, cruel and heartless son for a serious talk.
William M. Cox