Former US attorney-general Ramsey Clark, a long-time advocate for Taiwan’s democratization, is scheduled to arrive today on a two-day visit and is due to visit former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to get a better grasp on the conditions of his confinement and reportedly deteriorating health.
The former US official made the trip at the invitation of former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) amid growing concerns both in Taiwan and abroad over the state Chen’s health as well as his human rights.
Clark is scheduled to pay a visit to Chen at Taipei Prison this afternoon to inspect the state of his incarceration and learn more about his physical and mental health, sources said, adding that a report would be submitted to concerned US departments based on his findings.
Chen is serving a 17-and-a-half-year prison term on corruption charges. He has complained about several physical ailments, including chest pains.
On the second day of his trip, Clark is scheduled to visit Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) in the afternoon before holding a press conference, sources said.
The former US official will also attend an evening banquet hosted by Chai in his honor, where several DPP heavyweights and members of pro-localization civic groups are also expected to attend.
An internationally renowned defender of human rights, Clark flew to Taiwan in 1980 to express concern for what is known as the Formosa Incident, also known as the Kaohsiung Incident. The Incident started when the pro-democracy Formosa Magazine held a demonstration commemorating International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, 1979, in Kaohsiung, calling on the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government to respect human rights and demanding democracy. Within hours, the protesters were surrounded by military police and prominent leaders of the democracy movement were arrested.
Shortly after his arrival, Clark learned about the alleged torturing of one of the detained demonstrators, Lin Yi-hsiung (林義雄), by the government. He referred the matter to the US government and called for the protection of the rights of those who were deemed dissidents in Taiwan at the time.
On Sep. 8, 1991, when the Referendum Advocacy Association, founded by Chai, and other pro-democracy civic groups jointly staged a large-scale referendum movement, Clark also traveled to Taiwan and braved heavy downpours on the streets to join in the cause of democratization and stand side by side with Taiwanese.