Mon, Apr 12, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen Tsai-fu takes the fall for assassination attempt

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chief bodyguard Chen Tsai-fu, left, escorts President Chen Shui-bian, right, as the president presides over the Democratic Progressive Party's Central Executive Committee meeting in Taipei yesterday.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Presidential aide-de-camp Lieutenant-General Chen Tsai-fu (陳再福), who is to be removed from his post to take responsibility for the security lapse that allowed the March 19 assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), was known as a good commanding officer in the army.

But Chen Tsai-fu's performance since the shooting incident has raised doubts, not only from the opposition camp but also from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), about his competence.

Chen Tsai-fu, who was appointed as the chief security officer for the president and vice president 11 months ago, is one of a few native Taiwanese that Chen Shui-bian promoted to high positions in the military over the past four years.

Chen Tsai-fu grew up in Alian township, Kaohsiung County. He was of the 43rd class of the Kaohsiung-based army academy.

He was the first commander of the Tainan-based 298th motorized brigade, which was one of 40-plus combined-arms brigades activated during the Chingshih personnel streamlining and restructuring project from 1997 to 2000.

During his term as brigade commander, Chen got involved in the military's search-and-rescue efforts in the wake of the devastating Sept. 21, 1999, earthquake. This effort won him appreciation from local government leaders and military brass.

In recent years, contributions to post-disaster relief efforts became important in helping senior offices such as Chen to climb to a higher position.

Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) was an example, climbing from 8th corps commander of the army, to deputy commander-in-chief of the army, to army commander-in-chief, to chief of the general staff and then minister, Tang was known more for his experience in handling affairs related to natural disasters than for any military expertise.

After his term as brigade leader, Chen went on to become the commander of the Tainan-based 333rd division, one of the most important combat units in the service.

An officer with the army, who had worked under Chen in the 298th brigade, said Chen was strict and demanded strong discipline from his subordinates.

"Chen is a man who will tell you to leave the military if he thinks you are not fit for the environment," the officer said. "He is also good at training troops."

With a good reputation as a commanding officer, Chen made his way into the Presidential Office to take charge of security for the head of state.

It was once reported that Chen got the job mainly because of certain connections with the family of former interior minister Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲).

In the Presidential Office, Chen did not face any real tests until the March 19 assassination attempt, in which Chen Shui-bian and Lu were shot while campaigning in Tainan.

Chen Tsai-fu was in the same Jeep as the president and vice president. He sat in the frontseat while the president and vice president stood behind him.

Chen Tsai-fu was criticized because of his failure to notice that a bullet had gone through the windshield in front of him.

He was talking on the phone as Lu discovered that she and Chen Shui-bian had been wounded by gunshots.

Lu asked Chen Tsai-fu to get them away from the scene immediately and rush them to the hospital, according to a description of the incident by Lu that was published in major newspapers last week.

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