In a surprise move, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday publicly endorsed a proposal that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) should be granted medical parole, becoming the first political figure in the pan-blue camp to support the idea.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has remained low-key in response to calls from pan-green supporters and civil groups to grant the imprisoned Chen a thorough checkup and treatment in hospital.
Hau raised the issue while attending the launch ceremony for “Liberty Lane” (自由巷) in Taipei in memory of late democracy advocate Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), urging the government to handle the issue of Chen’s hospital stay with sensitivity.
“The issue is not only a judicial problem, but also a social issue that involves the feelings of many pan-green supporters. Granting him a hospital stay would be a significant move to heal the scars and bring social reconciliation,” Hau said.
He called on the Ma administration to take responsibility for the issue and adopt a “more positive and active approach” in handling it, suggesting that related government departments should form a medical task force with medical experts and doctors to make assessments of Chen’s physical and mental condition.
“Former president Chen used to be our national leader, and I think he should be treated with respect and maybe more tolerance,” Hau said.
As one of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) potential future presidential candidates, Hau’s comments raised eyebrows for straying from the party line on the issue.
He dismissed speculation that he raised the issue to seek more support for his presidential bid in 2016 and said he had not discussed the issue with Ma before making the remarks.
Hau, son of former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) and a former New Party politician, is considered a deep-blue politician, although he worked under the former DPP government in 2001 as the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency.
While denying any political motives for the comments, Hau drew attention from both the pan-blue and pan-green camps after the statement.
Ma declined to comment on Hau’s remarks.
The KMT also remained quiet on the issue. KMT spokesperson Ma Wei-kuo (馬瑋國) said the party respected Hau’s personal comments and said the Ministry of Justice would make a decision in accordance with procedure.
The former president is serving a 17-and-a-half-year prison term for corruption. He has complained about physical ailments, including chest pains.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) welcomed Hau’s support of medical parole for Chen.
“I am also glad the issue is getting more attention and we are likely marching closer to a consensus,” Su said.
Su said the DPP had always called for Chen’s release for medical treatment and it had never stopped working toward that goal.
Saying five city and county councils have so far reached resolutions supporting the release, Su said that more councils were expected to follow suit after they returned from recesses.
He said that hopefully there would be more pan-blue supporters showing compassion and supporting Chen’s release and that eventually, Ma Ying-jeou would agree to release Chen for medical treatment.
DPP Taipei City Councilor Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said he was surprised by Hau’s comments.
“I’ve been observing Hau’s performance in the Taipei City government during the past six years. Hau, who was never a sharp politician, finally got the point today,” Chuang said.