The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday passed a resolution urging party representatives and officials to gather public support for the release of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for medical treatment.
“The DPP urged its councilors and representatives at various levels nationwide to solicit support [for Chen’s medical release] and called for more support from civic groups with the resolution,” DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said after the Central Executive Committee meeting.
The party had passed two similar resolutions on the medical rights of Chen, who is serving a 17-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption, when Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) served as acting chairperson, but there were no substantial measures stated in the resolutions.
Several civic groups had launched petitions for the same cause, but failed to draw strong support.
However, the momentum appeared to have changed after the Greater Taichung Council on Friday passed a motion calling for the release of Chen for medical treatment as soon as possible and several doctors launched an online petition recently.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) drew criticism for his refusal to sign the petition despite his verbal support for the medical release.
With the resolution, which represents the DPP’s official position and approach, Lin said that Su thought it would put the party in a better position in its effort to seek Chen’s medical release.
Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), director of the National Taiwan University Hospital’s traumatology department and one of the doctors who launched the petition, was invited by Su to brief the Central Executive Committee yesterday on Chen’s health.
Ko, who had visited Chen at the Taipei Prison to examine him, told reporters after the briefing that Chen’s confinement in a 4.56m2 cell had affected the former president’s physical as well as mental health.
“As a prisoner — let alone a former president — Chen deserves at least a bed and a table, but he has been sleeping and writing on the floor,” Ko said.
“I don’t think a former president should be treated this way, and I don’t think there has been a president treated this way in the world,” he added.
Both Ko and Su called for “closure on Chen’s corruption case, which had caused serious political division in Taiwan,” with Ko saying that the release of Chen for medical treatment “may not eliminate the internal fighting, but it could at least alleviate the division.”
Ko said he had offered his observations as a doctor and did not care about the political ramifications or whatever the DPP’s decision might be.
Ko’s opinions on Chen’s health echoed the conclusion of three US-based medical experts who visited Chen on June 11 and said they would make a report to the US Congress.
Chen’s condition has caught the attention of the US Congress, with US Representative Dan Lungren calling on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to investigate Chen’s imprisonment.
The call for granting Chen a presidential pardon or a release for medical treatment surfaced earlier this year. However, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has made it clear that he would not grant such a pardon.