The dispute over imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) potentially returning to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) heated up after the party’s congress on Saturday, with former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) hinting she was opposed to Chen’s return.
Tsai on Saturday said that Chen, who is serving a 20-year sentence for corruption, “would have to make a lot more effort to win back society’s respect,” since DPP members are divided over the ramifications and implications of Chen rejoining the party.
Tsai’s comment drew heavy criticism from Chen’s supporters, in particular his son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), who wrote on his Facebook page that he could not understand the remark and begged to disagree with Tsai, adding that it was she “who has to work a lot harder for the presidential nomination in 2016.”
Former Northern Taiwan Society director Janice Chen (陳昭姿), a staunch backer of Chen Shui-bian, said Tsai took the stance to try to garner support from independent voters and had betrayed the former president’s support for her during his presidency.
“Chen Shui-bian worked hard enough during his eight years in the Presidential Office [and deserves the full support from his former party comrades],” said DPP Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山), convener of the One Country, One Side Alliance group, which was founded by the former president.
Others said that Tsai had made a good point, although the issue of Chen Shui-bian’s return had not been on the agenda at the congress.
“While many people, include myself, believed that Chen Shui-bian was politically persecuted and that he deserves medical parole, A-bian himself admitted he had made mistakes that disgraced his party. Tsai’s comment was fair because she was not addressing whether A-bian was guilty or not,” Taipei City Councilor Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑) wrote on his Facebook page yesterday.
Hung Chih-kune (洪智坤), a DPP Central Executive Committee member, was among a group of party members who urged the party to “make a complete assessment of A-bian’s merits and demerits,” which the DPP has not done since the corruption scandal broke out in 2006.
The DPP must tackle this unavoidable issue both for its own good and if wants to have a chance of winning future elections, Hung said, adding that even the Chinese Communist Party had made the effort to asses former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) in the early 1980s.
Hung Yao-fu (洪耀福), director of Tsai Ing-wen’s office, told reporters on Sunday that “now is the best time” to re-examine Chen Shui-bian’s achievements and mistakes so the party will move forward without being hindered by the “A-bian issue.”
Responding to the review appeal, DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) yesterday said that such an assessment “should be made by the people, rather than by a political party.”
Lin said the party would deliver a performance summary of the former DPP administration between 2000 and 2008.
However, Lin said it “would prefer not to grade any party member individually.”