Taiwan's 30-Day Medical Release of Former President: A Joke or Continued Vengeance

The decision of Taiwan's Ma administration to release former President Chen Shui Bian brought joy and relief to many of Mr. Chen's followers. But joy quickly turned to grief when the public learned the release was for 30 days only.
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The decision of Taiwan's Ma administration to release former President Chen Shui Bian brought joy and relief to many of Mr. Chen's followers. But joy quickly turned to grief when the public learned the release was for 30 days only. After that time, health officials will determine whether Chen's health has improved enough for him to return to prison. In other words, if Mr. Chen starts seriously making progress, he will be returned to prison, so that he can be ill again. Is it a joke or a continuing vengeance?

This 30-day limit on medical parole has never been applied before; it was tailor made for Mr. Chen only. Can he survive a return trip to prison or will he be willing to surrender himself without an attempt on his own life? Will his 85 years old mother survive a second loss of her son?

This kind of release is not a humanitarian gesture but an embarrassment. The Ma administration should hope the outside world pays no attention to it. Sending a prisoner back to prison after sending him/her home to recover from prison-induced illnesses is contradictory at best. A patient on the mend needs time, space and care to recover fully; one who knows that getting healthy means a return to jail does not have that care. One is condemned for getting better. Doctors treating him may also fear they will be condemning him to death by curing him as well.

Is this the wisdom of President Ma? Is it his justice department? If it is the latter, Ma should fire them. If this is President Ma himself, then he needs to recover himself from his self inflicted mental wound. If people in Taiwan allow this to happen, the joke is on Taiwan.

Mr. Chen's medical recovery will take time. His decline is the result of six years of brutality in prison. The first four years were filled with flash visits to hospitals at 4:00 in the morning; a perpetually burning bright light in his cell so a surveillance camera could monitor his every move; time out of his cell was limited to 30 minutes at most; his cell mate and Mr. Chen had to sleep on the floor, unable to stretch fully, among the defense files stacking up to waist high; and little attention to Mr. Chen's quickly declining health issues. Now he is being told he gets 30 days to get better only to land back to jail. I have written that the pursuit of Mr. Chen has been vengeance. It is cruel and unusual treatment for sure, and this kind of nonsense proves it once more.

Whether in life or death, all presidents, unless they committed treason, remain symbols of their nation. It is the respect not only to the person but also to the presidency. The responsibility of the presidency provides the person with unique perspective, experience, and wisdom, which a country should treasure. Mr. Chen, the former President of Taiwan, was severely hurt and nearly killed in inhuman imprisonment conditions. This blot on the history of Taiwan is barely cleansed with his release, but do we want even more shame by a second attempt on his life? Will the people in Taiwan have the wisdom, if their vengeful government has none, to treasure their national symbol?

Mr. Chen has served six hard years in jail. An American governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, just got sentenced to two years for corruption. If and when Mr. McDonnell goes to jail, the jail system won't be designed to kill him or to inflict serious mental and physical wounds to him. It will be a minimal security prison and in truth will be an easy stay with lots of benefits to the prisoner. Compare this to Taiwan. Many of the corruption charges against Mr. Chen have been tossed. More may or may not be thrown out, but the original charges that many Taiwanese once believed are no longer defensible. Thus, given the time served and that the controversial charges against Mr. Chen might still be thrown out, is it not time to simply release the man? My advice is this: leave him alone to live as he sees fit in a democracy that has respect for medical recovery as well as legal propriety.

Doctors know that incontinence and shaking of hands, as well as mental trauma, are not corrected quickly, if ever. Do not Mr. Ma and his advisers know this? Surely they do. It seems that Ma's government does not give a damn that the man is ill and needs time to recover fully.

People in Taiwan must rally to this broken man. During the two-hour ride home, Mr. Chen revealed to his son that he had endured six years of darkness for the sunshine to be with his mother, his wife, his children and grandchildren as a free man. People in Taiwan must keep this light of hope shining by dispersing the dark cloud of a 30-day limit imposed by the KMT/Ma government of vengeance.

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