The indictment of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) on corruption and forgery charges in connection with the handling of the president's state affairs fund has sent a political shockwave throughout the country.
President Chen Shui-bian (
Wu has come under fire since May over a spate of allegations ranging from political improprieties to financial irregularities.
Although last month she was cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with Sogo Department Store's controversial transfer of operational control, her indictment on corruption and forgery charges on Friday raises the issue of the first lady's place in governmental affairs.
Wu, who has charmed the public with her down-to-earth straightforwardness, was considered a political asset when Chen was elected to the presidency in 2000.
She has since turned into a liability for Chen, however, with some criticizing her for having too much influence on policy.
It is an open secret that the couple disagreed over the replacement of then Tainan County commissioner Mark Chen (
President Chen had originally planned to recruit Mark Chen to head the National Science Council.
While President Chen had wanted Mark Chen's deputy to take over the commissioners' position left vacant, Wu preferred Su Huan-chih (
Mark Chen later turned down the offer and decided to complete his term.
In a phone interview with the Taipei Times yesterday, Su said he believed Wu is innocent, taking into account Wu's family background.
Born into a well-off family in Madou (麻豆), Tainan County, in 1952, Wu did not know her life would change so dramatically after she started dating Chen in college.
Despite her family's objections, Wu married the then impoverished Chen in February 1975.
While the couple thought they would live a peaceful life with Chen practicing law, the 1979 "Kaohsiung Incident" altered their destiny and changed the course of Taiwan's democracy movement.
Wu encouraged Chen to commit himself to Taiwan's democratic development and supported his volunteering to defend Huang Hsin-chieh (
Chen Shui-bian quit his law practice to enter politics in 1981 when he was elected as a Taipei City councilor.
In 1985, Chen Shui-bian lost a Tainan County commissioner election and shortly thereafter Wu was paralyzed from the waist down after being repeatedly run over by a truck in an assassination attempt whose perpetrator was never found.
In 1986, not long after Wu was discharged from hospital and at a time when she desperately needed the support of her family, Chen Shui-bian was sentenced to a year in prison for libel for publishing an article in the pro-democracy Formosa magazine in which he claimed that later New Party lawmaker Elmer Feng's (
That same year, Wu ran in the legislative election and won. When Chen Shui-bian was released in February 1987, he served as Wu's legislative assistant until he himself was elected as a legislator in 1989.
Describing Wu as a direct, passionate and optimistic woman, DPP Legislator Lan Mei-chin (
"I'm sure she knows where to draw the line," she said.
Lan is the wife of former national policy adviser to the President Huang Tien-fu (
Lan has developed a close relationship with Wu since both of their husbands were sent to jail in 1986.
Lan said she was most impressed by Wu's courage in the face of illness.
"I remember one time after her tragic accident, she told me not to cry when I saw how she suffered," Lan said.
Former senior adviser to the president Wu Li-pei (