Visiting former US attorney general Ramsey Clark yesterday repeated his call for the immediate release of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), saying the Taiwanese government would be viewed as Chen’s murderer if his health deteriorated further.
The 84-year-old human rights advocate urged President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to act immediately on the suggestion of Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to stop playing “a dangerous game of denying him freedom” and grant Chen a medical parole.
Hau on Tuesday became the first politician from the pan-blue camp to publicly urge the government to consider granting Chen, who is serving a 17-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption, a release for medical treatment.
“Chen’s health is important to the future of this country. And if his health is seriously impaired or worsens ... the government will be seen as his murderer,” Clark said during a visit to the Deng Nan-jung Museum yesterday morning.
Clark said the Ma administration should act on Hau’s suggestion and do more — preferably placing Chen under house arrest instead and providing him with the best medical team and treatment.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) praised Hau’s initiative, which Su said transcended party lines.
Su also urged DPP members to respect Hau’s courageous decision and refrain from mocking his proposal or making sarcastic comments.
While Su did not name names, his comments were believed to be directed at the DPP’s Taipei City office director Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) and Taipei City Councilor Tung Chung-yen (童仲彥).
Chuang jokingly said on Tuesday that he was considering inviting Hau to join the DPP, while Tung yesterday tried to present bouquets to Hau to show his admiration.
Hau’s proposal was “serious” and based on humanitarian concerns, as well as hopes to end political division in the country, Su said, adding that Hau could not have picked a better place and time to present his initiative — at a ceremony to remember late democracy advocate Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) on Tuesday.
It took courage and wisdom for Hau to make such a bold proposal and seek reconciliation with Deng’s widow, Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), who strongly opposed then-president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) appointment of Hau’s father, Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), a retired general, as the premier in 1990, when Yeh was a legislator, Su added.
“The reconciliation is symbolic for domestic politics and denotes a possibility for political parties to collaborate and build a consensus on values,” Su said.
Later yesterday, Clark visited Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫).
Former DPP legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), who accompanied Clark on the visit, asked Tseng whether he could cite any country in Southeast Asia where a former head of state was treated the way Chen was being treated.
“I do not know what the law [on imprisonment] is in other countries. Here we only execute our own laws. I do not oppose anyone who would like to be a citizen of another country and receive that country’s treatment for prisoners,” Tseng said.
The rest of the meeting took place behind closed doors.
Vice Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) later told a post-meeting press conference that Clark asked Tseng whether the former president could be granted medical treatment on bail, and Tseng answered that Chen’s case is a legal issue and does not involve politics.
The former president’s current health condition does not meet requirements for granting medical parole, Chen Ming-tang quoted Tseng as saying.
Separately yesterday, the Taipei District Court held a hearing in which the former president was accused of illegally seizing confidential government documents.
Chen Shui-bian’s lawyer, Hung Kuei-tsan (洪貴參), said his client is still suffering from breathing problems and chest pains and is unhappy and depressed.
Hung said Chen felt sick, but told the court that it was through sheer willpower that he was able to show up for the hearing because he wanted to make a statement to defend his innocence.