Happy New Year, Chen Shui-Bian?
With the Lunar New Year approaching, Chinese from the around the world are hoping to head home and spend time with their family. That’s true even of Taiwan’s former president, Chen Shui-bian, even though he’s in jail on charges of embezzling state funds.
So Chen has started a letter-writing campaign asking the public to lobby his successor, Ma Ying-jeou, for a chance to go home. Chen, who was Taiwan’s president from 2000 to 2008, has been imprisoned since November 2008 and was officially sentenced to life in prison on charges of corruption last September.
Chen is still appealing his sentence, which means that under Taiwanese law he is eligible for parole until the appeal is heard. But so far, the court has kept him in prison on the grounds that his crimes are serious, reasoning that he might tamper with evidence and could try to escape.
So far, there’s no sign of mass support for Chen’s campaign, but his office says it has received quite a few positive responses. Chen remains popular among Taiwan’s pro-independence groups.
Some human-rights watch groups have raised concerns about the Taiwan government’s handling of Chen’s case. They say that the prosecution’s case against Chen and his family members might be politically motivated.
Cheng Wen-lung, Chen’s lawyer, said the campaign might not work, “but not trying means no chance at all.” The lawyer added that Chen’s legal team has applied for his release eight times.
The Presidential Office’s spokesman did not return calls for comment.
So far the prospects for parole don’t appear good. On Wednesday, the day after Chen’s office initiated the campaign, Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-jen, was sentenced to nine months in prison for abetting false testimony. Chen’s son Chen Chih-chung, his daughter Chen Hsing-yu and son-in-law Chao Chien-ming also each received a three-month sentence for giving false testimony.
So it looks like Chen wants to be home for the holidays.
Chen’s lawyers have actually made appeals for some kind of parole many times already, but each time it has been denied. So Chen now wants to organize a letter writing campaign to apply some political pressure for his release.
Does Chen deserve to be home for the holidays? Should Ma show some mercy on KMT’s former political foe?
My advice to Ma is no. Don’t do anything so foolish. Let the judicial process take its course. Taiwanese politics is polarized enough the way it is. To politically interfere so crudely in such a sensitive judiciary process would not bring anyone any good. To do so helping a convicted crook like Chen would be suicidal to your political career.
Ma, I know your approval rating has been abysmally low. But when even Rock Star President Obama is having trouble with approval ratings, you should take some heart. Hurricanes, the economy, beef imports all have taken their toll. But things should be turning around soon. With a free trade agreement with Mainland on the table, and signs that the U.S. economy is turning the corner, there should be much to look forward to in the coming new year.
The coming year is the year of the Tiger, an animal endowed with vigor and power. Let’s toast that the coming year will bring re-invigoration and prosperity to people on both sides of the strait!
As for Chen? I wish him good health and good life, too – so long as he does not use illicit or underhanded means to bring more pain and hurt to the people of Taiwan.
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