Liao Fu-pen (廖福本), a controversial former legislator who was granted medical parole late last year, died of multiple organ failure at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) on Wednesday at the age of 75, his family said.
Douliou City (斗六) Mayor Hsieh Shu-ya (謝淑亞), who is Liao’s daughter-in-law, said he suddenly fell into a coma after a follow-up visit to NTUH just over a week ago and died at about 10pm on Wednesday.
His body was taken back to Liao’s hometown, Gukeng Township (古坑), Yunlin County, the same night and the funeral is scheduled for July 4, Hsieh said.
Liao, a six-term lawmaker who helped pass several important bills during his many years as a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative whip, was sentenced in 2008 to six years in prison for his role in a counterfeit stock case involving an electronics company.
He was granted parole last year on Nov. 24 on medical grounds after he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, diabetes and memory loss, according to Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌). His prison term would not have formally ended until April 11, 2015.
Before he was imprisoned, Liao had been confined to a wheelchair after suffering a stroke and a spinal injury.
Liao was a high-school teacher and head of the Tainan County Education Bureau before he became a legislator in 1983, at a time when Taiwan had not yet moved toward democratization.
Throughout his 18-year political career, Liao was known for his even temperament and communication skills.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said Liao made a significant contribution to the passing of many key bills, including the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法) and the budget bill for the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
“In the early years of Taiwan’s democratic reforms, the legislature did not have democratic operational rules, and the opposition of a single lawmaker could paralyze the entire legislative process,” Wang said. “Liao spared no effort to communicate with opposition lawmakers to ensure smooth legislative sessions and the passing of several critical bills.”
KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) said Liao was very kind and easy to get along with.
“I was a newcomer to the legislature when Liao was the party whip. He was very kind and always ready to help junior members,” Ting said. “He will be remembered for his even-handed way of dealing with tricky issues and inter-party negotiations.”
Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), chief convener of the Democratic Progressive Party’s legislative caucus, said Liao never tried to use the KMT’s majority in the legislature to steamroll controversial bills, and always did his best to negotiate and coordinate with the opposition party.
Liao was nicknamed “red-envelope Pen” (the last word of his given name) because he allegedly tended to ask people in his constituency to financially reward his public service. However, those allegations were never proved. His supporters instead claim he was very generous to aides and friends.