Dear President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九):
On behalf of the Friends of Taiwan organization, I request that you grant former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) either a pardon or medical parole.
Friends of Taiwan is a non-profit, non-partisan group of native-born US citizens and Taiwanese-Americans incorporated in 2001. Our missions include promoting public understanding of issues concerning Taiwan and supporting democracy and human rights on the island.
Last month marks the fourth anniversary of president Chen’s incarceration.
Commentator Michelle Wang (王美琇), who visited Chen in prison, filed a report in the Taipei Times (“Crying out for humanitarianism,” Aug. 2, page 8) describing the conditions of Chen’s detention. The size of Chen’s prison cell is four square meters, shared with another inmate. The toilet is a hole in the floor.
“When Chen gets out of bed, he must squat over the hole to wash his face and brush his teeth,” Wang said.
Twenty-four hours a day the cell is flooded with light and a surveillance camera records his every move, even when he takes a shower or uses the toilet. There is no bed, chair or desk and Chen must sleep on the cold floor and write articles lying there.
Chen is confined to this small, damp bathroom and allowed just one hour of exercise each day. He is not allowed to work in the prison factory. After four years of harsh detention and lack of proper medical care, Chen now suffers from numerous illnesses, including acute coronary syndrome (potentially fatal reduction of blood flow to the heart), blood clots and tumors in the prostrate, gastroesophageal reflux, duodenal wall inflammation, rectal erosion, a collapsed left lower lung lobe, sleep apnea, bleeding vas deferens, arthritis and autonomic nerve disorder. MRI images also show damage to his brain.
Chen is also severely depressed. Sometimes he fears being poisoned by prison food and has lost the will to live, having said he wants to commit suicide.
Chen is now being treated at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, over the objections of his family, which preferred care by a team of independent physicians less susceptible to political manipulation. Even now the prison warden visits Chen every day, threatening to send him back to prison.
President Ma, most people in Taiwan remember that you vowed to see Chen die an ugly death at the height of the “red shirt” rebellion in 2006. It appears you are now using the judiciary and prison staff to realize your goal of political retribution. US Representative Steve Chabot has criticized your actions as “criminalization of politics.”
On June 11 a US team of human rights doctors visited Chen and wrote a report on the effect of incarceration on his physical and mental health. On July 12, two US congressmen, Representative Robert Andrews and Representative Dan Lungren, submitted the report to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. The report concluded that medical parole is the most appropriate effective treatment intervention.
On July 13, US Senator Sherrod Brown called on US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell to “give careful consideration” to the report.
US Representative Ed Royce has written to you on this subject. Hans van Baalen, leader of the Dutch Liberals in the European Parliament, who saw Chen early last month, is convinced that medical parole is warranted. Former US representative Tom Tancredo, who visited Chen on Nov. 9, voiced the same opinion, adding that “Taiwan’s democracy should be above this kind of political score settling.”