A member of the US Congress is urging US Secretary of State John Kerry to “take a stance” on the treatment of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
“I believe it is the duty of the State Department, on behalf of the United States, to address Chen’s plight,” US Representative Robert Andrews said.
“While human rights activists have continually pointed out the deplorable conditions present in many of Taiwan’s prisons, there is reason to believe that Chen is receiving more severe treatment than the other prisoners,” Andrews wrote in a letter to Kerry.
Chen, serving a 20-year sentence on corruption charges, is currently receiving treatment for heart problems, gastric distress, severe depression and vascular dementia in Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
However, Andrews says that it is his “understanding” that as soon as doctors clear Chen, he will be returned to prison and would be “subject to the same conditions which caused his many ailments.”
In July last year, Andrews submitted a medical report to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on the effects of incarceration on Chen’s mental and physical health.
“I think for an administration to come in and essentially jail the previous administration is a tragedy,” US Representative Steve Chabot told a Congressional hearing last year.
Chabot said that charges against Chen amounted to a “criminalization of politics” and compared Taiwan to a “banana republic.”
Formosa Association for Public Affairs president Mark Kao said that Taiwanese-Americans were “outraged” by the treatment of Chen.
“The chorus of proponents of medical parole for Chen continues to spread and continues to grow,” Kao said.
Meanwhile, Chen’s office yesterday said in a press release that the former president is set to have surgery today at Taipei Veteran General Hospital to treat hemorrhoids.
The office cited Chen’s private medical team as saying that the surgery was necessary because Chen’s hemorrhoids were worsening due to lack of exercise and treatment.
Chen fell down in his hospital room last week, the fourth time he has collapsed since being imprisoned, prompting further concerns over his deteriorating health.
Chen was diagnosed with a fracture in the last vertebra of his coccyx and could sustain a concussion in a fall, the medical team said.
Additional reporting by Chris Wang