A member of the US Congress said on Wednesday that he considered the plight of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to be a tragedy.
Addressing the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Representative Steve Chabot soundly condemned Chen’s treatment.
During a committee hearing into the threat of military and economic aggression from China, Chabot said: “I think the fact that the Taiwanese government has decided to move itself into the direction of the criminalization of politics is unfortunate.”
He added: “The previous president — president Chen Shui-bian — is still behind bars.”
“I think for an administration to come in and essentially jail the previous administration is a tragedy,” he said.
Chabot ended his statement — made during the question-and-answer period of the hearing — by saying that he thought the Ma administration should deal with Chen’s imprisonment “sooner rather than later.”
A Congressional staff member, who asked not to be quoted by name because he was not authorized to speak on this issue, said that he expected other members of the House to raise the Chen case.
He said sympathy for Chen was growing, following reports that he was in failing health and being held in a cell without a proper bed and without a table or chair.
The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) appealed directly to US President Barack Obama last week to help Chen get medical parole so that he could receive hospital treatment.
So far, the White House has not responded.
Chen is currently serving a 17-and-a-half year term on two concurrent sentences related to corruption charges.
The former president was recently diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome, significantly reduced blood flow and a prostate tumor.
He is only allowed 30 minutes of outdoor exercise each day.
FAPA official Coen Blaauw characterized Chabot’s remarks during the Congressional hearing as “dramatic.”
“Chabot has been a very strong supporter of Taiwan. He has met Chen several times,” Blaauw said.
“There is growing awareness and growing concern among members of the US Congress about Chen’s imprisonment,” he said.