Pan-green legislators yesterday lambasted the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for creating a Web site that provides detailed information about former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) condition in jail, calling it a severe infringement of Chen’s right to privacy and demanding that it immediately be shut down.
Chen is serving a 17-and-a-half-year term at Taipei Prison on corruption charges.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財), Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬), Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡), and Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) tendered a joint petition against the site — titled “special section of Mr Chen Shui-bian’s imprisonment treatment” — to the ministry.
The petition was accepted by Vice Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) on behalf of Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫), who is on an overseas visit.
“The ministry employs the Web site as a platform to selectively disclose personal information on Chen Shui-bian’s [imprisonment condition,] such as photographs [of his cell,] without his authorization,” Hsu said.
“Such actions not only constitute violations of the former president’s right to privacy, but also are tantamount to political revenge,” Hsu said, adding that they would not let the matter go until the ministry shut down the Web site.
Gao said that such an invasion of Chen Shui-bian’s privacy appeared to be the Taiwanese version of The Truman Show, with the ministry acting as a “Big Brother” that records and monitors the former president’s every move.
Questioning the ministry’s decision to set up the Web site, Chen Chi-mai asked whether other countries had established an exclusive Web site to publish photographs of their prisoners.
“Shouldn’t the ministry give the same treatment to other [high-profile inmates] and establish a Web site called ‘the [former Executive Yuan secretary-general] Lin Yih-shih (林益世) section?’” Chen Chi-mai asked, as he urged the ministry to clearly promulgate what types of illnesses were eligible for a medical parole.
Lin is being held at the Taipei Detention Center for allegedly accepting a bribe of NT$63 million (US$2.15 million) from Chen Chi-hsiang (陳啟祥), owner of Ti Yung Co, to help him secure slag treatment contracts from China Steel Corp and two of its subsidiaries in 2010, and for allegedly asking for a further NT$83 million this year.
In response, Chen Ming-tang said the ministry set up the Web site as a platform to publish explanatory statements by the Agency of Corrections amid rising public doubts regarding the former president’s condition.
Chen Ming-tang said Taipei Prison had not put Chen Shui-bian under 24-hour surveillance, and added that all published photographs involving the former president had been removed from the Web site.
“The ministry will look into the matter and make necessary improvements. In the meantime, we will consider terminating the Web site,” Chen Ming-tang said.
As for the possibility of Chen’s medical parole, eligibility should be determined solely by the professional assessment of medical practitioners, Chen Ming-tang said.
In related news, accompanied by Chen Shui-bian’s attorney, Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), members of several civic groups — including Taiwan Society chairman Wu Shuh-min (吳樹民), Taiwan Rescue Action Alliance executive director Michelle Wang (王美琇), Taiwan North Society chairman Chou Fu-nan (周福南) and Taiwan Hakka Society chairman Chang Yeh-sen (張葉森) — held a press conference in front of the National Taiwan University Alumni Building in Taipei yesterday morning to petition for medical parole for the former president.
“Our priority is getting Chen Shui-bian medical parole, and other relevant judicial issues will be dealt with in the future,” Wu said.