Ailing former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was released from prison on medical parole yesterday, after serving six years for a graft conviction relating to his presidency.
Chen, in a wheelchair and holding a cane, left the prison accompanied by his son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), for a month of medical treatment. He waved to a group of supporters waiting outside before boarding a car arranged by prison authorities to take him to his home in Greater Kaohsiung.
As his motorcade — led by police motorcycles — left the prison, some supporters shouted: “A-bian (陳水扁) is not guilty,” and “Go, A-bian,” using the former president’s nickname.
The motorcade navigated throngs of supporters and reporters outside the prison for 10 minutes before breaking free and heading on its way.
Earlier yesterday, a 10-member review panel at the Ministry of Justice’s Agency of Corrections decided to grant the parole in the light of recommendations from a team of doctors who reported a rapid deterioration of Chen Shui-bian’s health since May last year, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said.
“His health conditions are complicated and difficult to control. He could die at any time,” Chen Ming-tang said.
In a statement, the agency cited the medical team’s report, saying that the 64-year-old is experiencing loss of motor control.
“This type of degeneration occurs in different parts of the brain simultaneously,” it said.
It added that although Chen Shui-bian was being treated by a team of doctors from Taichung Veterans General Hospital, he has not shown any obvious improvement, except for with his sleep apnea.
After careful observation, the medical specialists reported that Chen Shui-bian’s prison environment did not help his health and would lead to worsening illness, the agency said.
The physicians concluded that confinement had seriously affected his health and recommended that he be sent home for care on medical parole, the agency said.
It stressed that the parole is a temporary release on medical grounds and that Chen Shui-bian is required to return to prison once his health stabilizes.
“The parole period will not count toward his prison term,” the agency added.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who is also the convener of Chen Shui-bian’s healthcare working group, yesterday called the latter’s release “just the beginning,” given the substantial work ahead in designing a healthcare plan for the veteran politician.
“His going home is not as easy as it looks,” Ko said. “Thought has to be put into his environment and care.”
He gave as an example the need to protect Chen Shui-bian from accidental falls after he gets home.
Ko also expressed support for efforts to curtail the ministry’s power to rule on medical parole cases.
“Chen Shui-bian’s case has shown us that there are no clear rules on the conditions under which prisoners are to be released to receive medical care,” Ko said. “Allowing prison wardens or the Ministry of Justice to unilaterally decide is not ideal, in my opinion.”
Chen Shui-bian was transferred to a prison hospital in April last year after being diagnosed with severe depression, suspected Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.
He attempted to commit suicide in June last year, trying to hang himself with a towel in a prison hospital bathroom, officials said.
Chen Shui-bian’s supporters have recently stepped up their campaign for his early release.
His former deputy, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), 70, undertook a three-day hunger strike in a tent late last month to demand that he be freed.
The former Democratic Progressive Party leader ended 50 years of continuous Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule when he came to power in 2000.
After his second term ended in 2008, Chen Shui-bian was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for money laundering and bribery — a term reduced to 20 years after appeals.
He began serving his sentence on Nov. 11, 2010, but had been detained for nearly two years by then, while prosecutors were investigating and prosecuting the cases.
Chen Shui-bian insists that the charges against him are part of a politically motivated vendetta by the current KMT government in retaliation for his eight years in power promoting Taiwan’s independence.
Additional reporting by Abraham Gerber
NPP WARNING: The NPP’s chairman said that a security law proposed by Beijing means it has renounced its promise to maintain ‘one country, two systems’ in HK The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) yesterday proposed changing the law to provide protection for those seeking political asylum. China at the opening of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Thursday introduced a draft security law for Hong Kong to ban treason, subversion and sedition, with a review expected next week. TPP caucus whip Jang Chyi-lu (張其祿) said that the party is concerned about democracy advocates in Hong Kong and has taken action to support them. The party has proposed an amendment to Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau (香港澳門關係條例), which stipulates that the government can offer
The number of people from Hong Kong applying for residency in Taiwan last year rose 41 percent from a year earlier to 5,858, National Immigration Agency statistics showed. The statistics also showed that 600 applications were filed by Hong Kong residents in the first quarter of this year — three times the number filed in the same period last year — with applicants apparently not deterred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just one day after it was reported that the Chinese government plans to enact new national security laws in Hong Kong, inquiries regarding immigration to Taiwan grew 10-fold, a Hong Kong-based immigration
‘BEGINNING OF THE END’: Democracy advocate Joshua Wong urged Hong Kongers to stand up and fight, and let the Chinese government know that they will not cave Hong Kong protesters yesterday battled with riot police in busy downtown areas, showing their opposition toward China’s dramatic move to crack down on dissent in the biggest demonstration since the coronavirus swept through the territory in January. Police deployed a water cannon and fired tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping area after hundreds of protesters had gathered to oppose new national security legislation from China. Police warned the crowd they were taking part in an illegal gathering, and later said in a statement that “rioters threw umbrellas, water bottles and other objects at them.” At least 120 people were arrested,
‘TAIWAN IS SAFE’: As there have been no new local cases for 42 days, people should feel free to travel around the nation — as long as they follow disease prevention rules No new cases of COVID-19 were reported yesterday and only 20 of the people hospitalized after testing positive are still being treated in hospitals, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday in Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁) as he promoted a “new disease prevention lifestyle” for the nation. As yesterday was the 42nd consecutive day with no new domestic cases, and experts consider 28 consecutive days with no domestic case — the span of two incubation periods — a sign that a community is relatively safe, Taiwan is safe, said Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC),