Newspaper article China Post

Chen's Chance to Transform Both Himself and the Nation

Newspaper article China Post

Chen's Chance to Transform Both Himself and the Nation

Article excerpt

When former President Chen Shui-bian was escorted by the Supreme Prosecutor Office's Special Investigation Division to the Taipei District Court in 2008, he held his handcuffed arms up high for the cameras and yelled to the press that his corruption charges were "political persecution."

The former president, who was locked up pending trial in 2008 and was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in 2010, was seemingly less defiant when he left Taichung Prison for medical parole yesterday. Appearing frail in a wheelchair, Chen did not say anything to the crowd waiting for his release outside the prison. He just waved at them before getting into a car.

Look closer, however, and one will find that Chen has not changed much since the iconic 2008 moment. On the baseball cap he wore were Chinese characters that said: "The Bian (Chen Shui-bian) case is political persecution." The characters were small and hardly discernable from a distance, but they featured prominently in a close-up photo of the former president posted by his son Chen Chih-chung.

The granting of medical parole should not be a political matter, but due to Chen's role as Taiwan's first non-Kuomintang president and his controversial corruption trials, his temporary release (he is granted a one-month parole but the release can be extended if medical experts deem it necessary for his health) is inevitably seen as an event of major political significance.

Chen has always been a divisive figure, a politician who is either loved or hated. His medical parole attests to that confusing legacy. While Chen's supporters and sympathizers see the former president's deteriorating health as proof of the political persecution he suffered, detractors and conspiracy theorists regard it a faked condition. The possibility of Chen faking all of his health problems is virtually nonexistent, however, as they are verified by a bipartisan panel of medical experts and include physiological conditions that are hard to fake.

Nevertheless, conspiracy theories live on as Chen's case resembles one of the oldest human stories. History is populated with powerful figures who faked feebleness or even insanity in times of adversity to fool their enemies, while waiting to bounce back strong and catch everyone off-guard at an opportune moment. …

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