Wu Shu-jen decision divides lawmakers

PRISON POSTPONED::Predictably, politicians were divided along party lines, with DPP members expressing relief, while KMT members said it might hinder investigations

Staff Writer, with CNA

Sun, Feb 20, 2011 - Page 3

A decision by judicial authorities to put off the incarceration of former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) after a prison hospital declined to admit her owing to her poor health drew a mixed reaction that was divided along party lines.

While politicians from the Democratic Progressive Party breathed a sigh of relief after the Kaohsiung Prosecutors’ Office ordered Wu’s son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), to take his partially paralyzed mother home, lawmakers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) questioned the rationale beyond the ruling.

Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) respected the prosecutors’ decision to indefinitely postpone Wu’s incarceration based on an assessment of her health by a medical team commissioned by the Taichung Prison-run Pei Teh Hospital.

DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) said Taichung Prison made the right decision not to admit Wu, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since being run over by a truck in 1985.

According to Cheng, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) breathed a sigh of relief after learning that Wu’s incarceration had been put off indefinitely.

In contrast, KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) questioned the prosecutors’ decision and said Minsiter of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) needed to explain in detail the reasoning behind the decision.

KMT legislative whip Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said he was afraid that the move would hinder follow-up investigations of other corruption scandals involving the former first family because other family members might simply incriminate Wu to dodge their responsibilities.

Wu reported to the Kaohsiung Prosecutors’ Office early on Friday in the company of her son in preparation for a journey to Pei Teh Hospital in Taichung.

Many supporters of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) demonstrated in front of the tightly guarded prosecutors’ office to voice their support for Wu.

Wu traveled to Taichung on a high-speed bullet train, departing from Kaohsiung in the company of her son as well as a prosecutor, a number of police officers and medical professionals.

A medical team composed of 14 physicians from China Medical University in Greater Taichung assessed Wu’s health in 10 categories, during a series of examinations that lasted from 10am through 2pm.

Yang Mei-tu (楊美都), deputy superintendent of the private university, who took part in the assessment, said Wu suffered from low blood pressure, autonomic nervous system disorder and heart disease, adding that Wu also could not urinate by herself and suffered from chronic constipation.

“The medical team concluded that Wu’s chances of survival are unpredictable, that she cannot take care of herself on a day-to-day basis and that it is difficult to provide care for her,” Yang said.

Based on the team’s assessment, the Taichung Prison said it decided not to admit Wu, in accordance with Article 11 of the Prison Act (監獄行刑法).

Besides allowing Wu’s son to take her home, the prosecutors office also ruled that Wu should not change her residence in Greater Kaohsiung without permission and was prohibited from leaving the country under any circumstances.

Wang Chun-li (王俊力), a senior prosecutor at the office, said that as there was no home detention system in place in Taiwan, Wu’s prison term remains unchanged and if and when she begins serving her sentence in prison, she will still have 17-and-a-half years to serve.

“Wu’s incarceration has only been postponed indefinitely,” Wang said, adding that Wu would be summoned to start serving her time whenever prosecutors decide she is well enough to stay behind bars.

Wu and her husband Chen Shui-bian were each sentenced to a total of 19 years in jail by the Supreme Court in November last year for taking bribes when Chen was president. Chen Shui-bian, who had been held at a detention center since late 2008, was transferred to Taipei Prison in Taoyuan County on Dec. 2 to serve his time.