Taichung Prison yesterday warned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who is on medical parole, against accepting an invitation to attend president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration state banquet on Friday.
“The upcoming state banquet is not being held at a medical facility, nor is it a medical event in nature. The activities Chen participates in must be related to his medical needs, or he might violate the provisions of his medical parole,” prison warden Huang Wei-hsien (黃維賢) said.
Huang said Chen would risk having his medical parole revoked should he violate the rules, but added that the decision on whether to cancel the former president’s parole lies with the Ministry of Justice.
Huang made the remarks hours after Chen’s son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), posted on Facebook a picture showing an invitation addressed to his parents along with two VIP passes for Tsai’s state dinner, which is to be held at the Taipei Marriott Hotel on Friday evening.
Chen Chih-chung said whether his parents would attend the state banquet hinges on a professional evaluation of his father’s health, adding that the invitation was issued by the incoming Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government out of respect for former presidents.
Chen Shui-bian, who was in office from 2000 to 2008, has served more than six years of a 20-year prison term for several convictions on corruption charges.
Medical parole granted to the former president has been extended six times since he was first granted compassionate release from the prison’s Pei Teh Hospital in January last year. The former president’s health is re-evaluated every three months, with his seventh parole term set to expire on Aug. 4.
Although it remains uncertain whether Chen Shui-bian will make an appearance at the banquet, the matter galvanized a heated debate yesterday.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Policy Committee director Alex Tsai (蔡正元) criticized the DPP’s issuance of an invitation to Chen Shui-bian, saying that inviting a corrupt politician to a state banquet when he is still in the midst of his prison sentence would set a ridiculous precedent.
However, DPP Legislator Wellington Koo (顧立雄) said the banquet should be regarded as an opportunity for Chen Shui-bian to “go out and relax.”
“Is walking on the streets medically related? It should be OK for the former president to go out and relax,” Koo said.
New Power Party caucus convener Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said news of the invitation was “heartwarming,” but that it would be up to Chen’s family to decide whether to attend.
Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) said while the purpose of medical parole is for the inmate to receive medical treatment, she would not oppose Chen Shui-bian’s attendance at the state banquet should he obtain prior approval from the concerned government agencies.
Additional reporting by Abraham Gerber
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