US lawmakers call for Chen’s release

‘WORRISOME’::US medical experts who visited former president Chen Shui-bian voiced concern over the conditions of his confinement and his deteriorating health

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 - Page 1

Two US lawmakers have submitted a medical report calling for immediate medical parole for former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

“Because it is not easily predictable how much Chen’s incarceration conditions need to improve to prevent further serious physical and mental damage, medical parole is the most appropriate effective treatment intervention,” the report said.

It was written by former medical professor Joseph Lin and current medical professors Ken Yoneda and Charles Whitcomb of the University of California.

They visited Chen in prison in Taiwan about a month ago.

The medical team also said there were “compelling humanitarian grounds” for releasing Chen.

“We went to Taiwan as private neutral American citizens, concerned about reports on the medical condition of President Chen,” Lin said.

“We came back convinced that the conditions of his confinement are utterly unacceptable having caused extreme mental stress and serious medical symptoms, some potentially life-threatening,” he said.

Lin said that Chen’s mental state was “particularly worrisome.”

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was formed by the US Congress and is currently co-chaired by Republican Representative Frank Wolf and Democratic Representative James McGovern.

Democratic Representative Robert Andrews and Republican Representative Dan Lungren formally submitted the report to the commission.

The doctors hope that the commission will convene a hearing on Chen’s case and strongly urge President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to grant medical parole.

“Taiwanese Americans are outraged by the treatment of former president Chen,” Formosan Association for Public Affairs president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said.

“The deterioration in Chen’s physical and mental health is becoming increasingly disturbing to more and more members of Congress,” Kao said.

“To safeguard the welfare of the former president, prevent the deepening of social conflict and preserve Taiwan’s status as a democratic, rights-respecting country, the Ma administration must act immediately,” he added.

Former co-chair of the Taiwan Caucus Representative Steve Chabot said during a recent US congressional hearing that Chen’s incarceration was a “tragedy.”

Saying the charges against Chen amounted to a “criminalization of politics,” he compared Taiwan to a “banana republic.”

Earlier this week, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) joined a signature drive to request medical parole for Chen, adding that he had written letters asking the public and DPP lawmakers, as well as city and county councilors, to support the drive.

It was the first time that Su has taken a public stance on the signature drive that was launched by National Taiwan University doctor Ko Wen-che (柯文哲), medical professionals and pro-DPP groups earlier this year.

Additional reporting by CNA