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Chen Shui-bian

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Chen Shui-bian
陳水扁

In office
20 May, 2000 – 20 May, 2008
PremierTang Fei
Chang Chun-hsiung
Yu Shyi-kun
Frank Hsieh
Su Tseng Chang
Chang Chun-hsiung (2nd term)
Vice PresidentAnnette Lu
Preceded byLee Teng-hui
Succeeded byMa Ying-jeou
In office
20 May, 2000 – 20 May, 2008
Preceded byFrank Hsieh
Succeeded byTsai Ing-wen
In office
25 December 1994 – 25 December 1998
Preceded byHuang Ta-chou
Succeeded byMa Ying-jeou
Born12 October 1950 (1950-10-12) (age 59)
Guantian, Tainan, Taiwan
Nationality Republic of China
Political partyindependent
Other political
affiliations
Democratic Progressive
Spouse(s)Wu Shu-chen
ResidenceTucheng Penitentiary
ReligionChinese folk religion
Chen Shui-bian
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
This is a Chinese name; the family name is 陳 (Chen).

Chen Shui-bian (born October 12, 1950) is a former Taiwanese politician who was the President of the Republic of China from 2000 to 2008. Chen, whose Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has traditionally been supportive of Taiwan independence, ended more than fifty years of Kuomintang (KMT) rule in Taiwan. He is colloquially referred to as A-Bian (阿扁; Ābiǎn; Taiwanese: 阿扁仔 A-píⁿ-à).

Chen entered politics in 1980 as a lawyer and came to be known for his forceful arguments; out of concern for reformation of the political system, Chen entered politics as a member of the Tangwai movement and was elected to the Taipei City Council in 1981. Chen was jailed in 1985 for libel as the editor of the weekly pro-democracy magazine Neo-Formosa, following publication of an article critical of Elmer Feng, a college philosophy professor who was later elected a Kuomintang legislator. After being released, Chen was elected a member of the Legislative Yuan in 1989, and Mayor of Taipei in 1994.

Chen won the 2000 presidential election on March 18 with only 39% of the vote as a result of a split of factions within the Kuomintang, when James Soong ran for the presidency as an independent against the party nominee Lien Chan, becoming the first and only non-Kuomintang to hold the office of president. Although Chen received high approval ratings during the first few weeks of his term, his popularity sharply dropped due to alleged corruption within the Chen administration and the inability to pass legislation against the opposition KMT, who controlled the Legislative Yuan. In 2004, during his re-election campaign, Chen was shot while campaigning.

On September 11, 2009, Chen received a life sentence and was fined NT$200 million[1] (US$6.13 million) on charges of embezzlement, taking bribes, and money laundering, involving a total of US$15 million (NT$490 million) while in office from 2000 to 2008.[2] Supporters of Chen contend that the prosecution was politically motivated.[3][4] Chen is the first ROC president to receive a prison sentence.[5]

Contents

Early years

Chen was born to an impoverished tenant farming family in Kuantien Township of Tainan County on the second day of the ninth lunar month in 1950 but was not formally issued a birth certificate until February 18, 1951 because of doubts that he would survive.[6]

Academically bright from a young age he graduated from the prestigious National Tainan First Senior High School with honors. In June 1969, he was admitted to National Taiwan University. Initially a Business Administration major, he switched to Law in his first year and became editor of the school's law review. He passed the bar exams before the completion of his junior year with the highest score becoming Taiwan's youngest lawyer. He graduated in 1974 with an LL.B. in Commercial Law.

In 1975, he married Wu Shu-chen, the daughter of a physician. The couple have a daughter, Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), who is a dentist; and a son, Chen Chih-Chung (陳致中), who, having received a law degree in Taiwan, gained a Master of Laws from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005.[7]

From 1976 to 1989, Chen was a partner in Formosa International Marine and Commercial Law, specializing in maritime insurance. He held the firm's portfolio for Evergreen Marine Corporation.

Entry into politics

Chen became involved in politics in 1980 when he defended the participants of the Kaohsiung Incident in a military court. While his client Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介), the leading opposition dissident, and seven co-defendants, including his future Vice President Annette Lu, were found guilty, Chen came to be known for his forceful and colorful arguments. He has stated that it was during this period that he realized the unfairness of the political system in Taiwan and became politically active as a member of the Tangwai movement.

Chen won a seat in the Taipei City Council as a Tangwai candidate in 1981 and served until 1985. In 1984, he founded the pro-opposition Civil Servant Public Policy Research Association, which published a magazine called Neo-Formosa.

On January 12, 1985, Chen was sentenced to a year in prison for libel as a result of his editorship of Neo-Formosa, following the publication of an article critical of Elmer Feng, then a college philosophy professor who was later elected a Kuomintang (KMT) legislator. While appealing the sentence, he returned to Tainan to run for county magistrate in November 1985. Three days after losing the election, his wife, Wu Shu-chen was hit twice by a truck driven by Chang Jong-tsai (張榮財) as Chen and Wu were thanking their supporters. She was left paralyzed from the waist down. His supporters believed this was part of a government campaign to intimidate him[citation needed], although another theory says it was a simple traffic accident.[8] Chen writes in his autobiography that he harbors guilt towards his late father-in-law for this incident because of his failure to keep his promise that his involvement in politics would not harm his family and for ignoring repeated death threats from his opponents[citation needed].

Chen lost his appeal in May 1986 and began serving eight months in the Tucheng Penitentiary (土城看守所) along with Huang Tien-fu (黃天福) and Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋), two other defendants in the case. While he was in prison, his wife campaigned and was elected to the Legislative Yuan. Chen also reflects how the various visits his wife made to him in prison overwhelmed him as she often fell from the wheelchair with no one to assist her. Upon his release, Chen served as her legislative assistant and practiced law.

In 1989, Chen was elected to the Legislative Yuan and served as the executive director of the Democratic Progressive Party Congress. With the support of some KMT colleagues, Chen was also elected convener of the National Defense Committee. He was instrumental in laying out and moderating many of the DPP's positions on Taiwan independence, including the four ifs. He was reelected to another three year term in 1992, but resigned in two years to become mayor.

Taipei mayoralty, 1994–1998

Chen was elected as the mayor of Taipei in 1994, largely as the result of a vote split between the KMT incumbent Huang Ta-chou and the KMT-spin-off New Party (NP) candidate Chao Shaokong (趙少康). Unable to find experienced bureaucrats from his own party, Chen and his inner circle of young law school graduates retained many of the KMT administrators and delegated considerable authority.

During his term, Chen received accolades for his campaigns to drive illegal gambling and prostitution rackets out of Taipei. He levied large fines on polluters and reformed public works contracts. He closed brothels and demolished slums on municipal land in the Daan District to complete what is now Daan Forest Park. Chen renamed many of the roads in Taipei, most notably the road which runs between KMT Headquarters to the Presidential Palace from "Chieh-shou Road" (介壽路 jiè shòu lù; "Longevity for Chiang Kai-shek Road") to "Ketagalan Boulevard" (凱達格蘭大道) in an effort to acknowledge the aboriginal people of the Taipei basin. Chen also made highly publicized evictions of longtime KMT squatters on municipal land, and ordered Chiang Wei-kuo's estate demolished. Chen was also named one of Asia's rising stars, and Taipei became one of the top 50 cities in Asia according to Time Magazine's Asia version.

Despite receiving more votes both in absolute and in percentage terms than his 1994 campaign, Chen lost this position in 1998 to the KMT's rising star Ma Ying-jeou in large part because the KMT was able to gain the support of New Party supporters. In his first autobiography, "The Son of Taiwan", Chen wrote that he was not entirely upset about losing the reelection as it gave him opportunity to find out what areas in his political career he could improve. For example, he wrote that Mainlanders generally approved of his social and economic improvements in Taipei, but they ultimately voted for Ma because of ethnic tensions.He also traveled extensively nationwide and abroad. In South Korea, he met with President Kim Dae Jung, who presented him with an award.

He also met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who promised that he would celebrate if he won the 2000 presidential elections. Due to political complications, this promise was not fulfilled until late 2003.

Presidency, 2000–2008

Chen speaking at a news conference

First term

Election results by county (Green: DPP, Orange: Soong-Chang)

In an election similar to Taipei's in 1994, Chen won the 2000 presidential election on March 18 with only 39% of the vote as a result of a split of factions within the Kuomintang, when James Soong ran for the presidency as an independent against the party nominee Lien Chan.

Lacking a clear mandate and inheriting a bureaucracy largely loyal to the KMT, Chen tried to reach out to his opposition. He appointed the KMT conservative mainlander Tang Fei, a former general and the incumbent defense minister, as his first Premier. Only about half of Chen's original cabinet were DPP members, as few DPP politicians had risen above the local level. Although a supporter of Taiwan independence, Chen moderated his stance during his campaign and pledged the Four Noes and One Without in his inaugural address—that as long as the People's Republic of China has no intention to use military force against Taiwan, he would not declare independence nor change the national symbols of the Republic of China. He also promised to be, "President of all the people" and resigned his chairmanship from the DPP. His approval rating reached 70%.

Chen's administration ran into many problems, and its policies were constantly blocked by the Pan-Blue Coalition-controlled legislature. The stock market lost over half its value within a year and unemployment reached 4.5% in part because of the Asian stock market crash. While Chen's detractors blamed Chen's poor leadership for the economic crisis, the administration blamed the legislature for blocking its relief efforts.

More troublesome for Chen was the political showdown over the construction of the Number Four Nuclear Power Facility. This multibillion dollar project in Kungliao (貢寮) was already one-third completed and favored by the pro-business KMT as a means of avoiding an energy shortage. However, the environmentalist DPP strongly objected to the expansion of nuclear power. Premier Tang had threatened to resign if the project were canceled, and Chen accepted his resignation on October 3, 2000, only four and a half months after both had taken office. Chen appointed his political ally Chang Chun-hsiung as Tang's replacement. On October 27, Chang announced that the government would halt construction. But less than an hour before, President Chen had met with Lien Chan to reconcile differences[citation needed]. Lien had asked Chen to leave the matter for the Legislative Yuan to decide and Chen seemed receptive to the suggestion. When Chang's announcement came out, Lien was furious and the KMT began an effort to recall the President. The Council of Grand Justices intervened and declared that it was the legislature and not the cabinet that had the power to decide on the issue. This was widely seen as the end of Chen's attempts to face the pan-blue groups head on. By the end of his first year in office, Chen's approval ratings had dropped to 25%.[citation needed]

During summer of 2001, Chen flew to Los Angeles, Houston, and New York City, where he met with members of the U.S. Congress. The mayor of Houston presented Chen with a key to the city and gave him cowboy clothing. His trip to New York was a first for a head of state from Taiwan as there was unwritten agreement between the US and China that no head of state from Taiwan would be permitted to visit either New York or Washington, D.C.

After his first year in office, Chen seemed to move away from sending conciliatory gestures. In the summer of 2002, Chen again became the chairman of the DPP. During his tenure, images of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo disappeared from public buildings. The word "TAIWAN" is now printed on new ROC passports. Also continuing a trend from the previous administration, the Education Ministry revised the school curriculum to be more Taiwan-centered. Government websites have also tended to promote the notion that China is synonymous with the PRC instead of the ROC as was mandated by the KMT. The "Free China Review" was renamed the Taiwan Review and Who's Who in the ROC was renamed Who's Who in Taiwan. In January 2003, a new Taiwan-Tibet Exchange Foundation was formed but the Cabinet-level Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission was not abolished. Though Chen has proposed talks with the PRC, relations remain deadlocked as Chen refused to pledge to the One-China policy, as required by the PRC for talks to begin. Such a pledge seemed unlikely for Chen since there remained strong opposition within his own party. Despite these symbolic gestures, Chen moved away from "no haste, be patient" policy and opened the three mini links.[citation needed]

Re-election campaign

In late 2003, he signed a controversial referendum bill, which he had supported but was heavily watered down by the Pan-Blue majority legislature. One concession that the legislature made was to include a provision for an emergency defensive referendum and during the legislative debates it was widely believed that this clause would only be invoked if Taiwan was under imminent threat of attack from China as has been so often threatened. Within a day of the passage of the referendum bill, Chen stated his intention to invoke this provision, citing PRC's over 450 missiles aimed directly at the Taiwanese. Pan-Blue believed that his bill was only intended to benefit Chen in the coming election, as whether PRC removes the missiles would not be pressured or decided by referendum result.

File:Presidential Building, Taiwan (0757).JPG
Images of Chiang Kai-shek were removed from public buildings. Chen's portrait was hung at a location in the Presidential Office that previously displayed a portrait of Chiang.

In October 2003, Chen flew to New York City for a second time. At the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, he was presented with the Human Rights Award by the International League of Human Rights. In the subsequent leg of the trip to Panama, he met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and shook hands with him. This high profile trip raised Chen's opinion polls ahead of his opponent Lien Chan for the first time at 35%, according to Agence France Presse.

His use of the referendum in combination with his talk of a new constitution lead many among his reunification critics to believe that he would attempt to achieve Taiwan independence in his second term by invoking a referendum to create a new constitution that would formally separate Taiwan from any interpretation of China. This caused the government of the United States to follow the lead of Chen's political critics and issue a rare rebuke of Chen's actions.

Chen was reportedly shot in the stomach while campaigning in the city of Tainan on Friday, March 19, 2004, the day before polls opened on Saturday. According to Chen, the bullet left a flesh wound that was 11 cm long and 2 cm deep and was found in his clothes. He left the hospital on the same day with 14 stitches. His Vice President Annette Lu was also reportedly shot in the leg in the same incident. After the election, video from the hospital Chen and Lu were taken to showed Chen walking into the hospital after the Presidential Office Secretary General said that he had been taken in. The opposition made many allegations into the conduct of the security and hospital procedures requiring Chen and Lu to change parts of their stories in order for it to make sense. While many theories were put forth, the opposition had no access to the physical evidence so the Criminal Investigation Bureau refuted them.

The following day, Chen narrowly won the election with a margin of less than 30,000 votes out of 12.9 million votes counted. Both of his referendum proposals were rejected due to insufficient turnout, in part by the Pan-Blue boycott. Those that did vote for the referendum overwhelmingly favored it. Due to the activation of the so-called National Security Mechanism which prevented military officers from voting, and island-wide reports of election fraud, Pan-Blue candidate Lien Chan refused to concede and sued both for a recount and for a nullification of the outcome while supporters held a week-long protest led by the Pan-Blues front of the presidential office in Taipei. He also claimed that the shooting was staged by Chen to win sympathy votes. Chen claimed that the shooting could not have been staged, because it would be too dangerous to have himself shot in a moving jeep and also challenged Lien and vice-presidential candidate James Soong to try their luck with a shooter in a stationary jeep. This challenge was based on the assumption that his belly wound was inflicted while he was in the moving jeep and not before or afterwards.

The opposition also raised the fact that Chen had faked a food poisioning incident while running for Tainan County Commissioner in 1985. Chen arrived at a debate on a stretcher accusing the KMT of poisoning his tea earlier. Later that night after the debate, Chen was seen as having no ill-effects from the apparent incident which prompted the opposing candidate to accuse him of staging the incident to garner sympathy.

The Criminal Investigation Bureau hired renowned forensic scientist Henry Lee (forensic scientist) to examine the physical evidence. Dr. Henry Lee was famous for defending O.J. Simpson in the murder of his wife and lover, and helped acquit Simpson based on the LAPD's lack of professionalism and possibility of planted evidence at the murder site. Dr. Henry Lee and his team of Americans had previously established the belly wound was in fact a gunshot wound, and then claimed the windshield hole had been struck from the outside based on the lack of windshield powder outside the jeep. Despite widespread speculation that the casings were planted on the street, Lee expressed no concern regarding the origin of the evidence even though the casings had been found some 3 1/2 hours after the incident occurred and street cleaning had cleaned up the firecracker debris. Dr. Lee was also not critical of the local police and National Security Bureau's inability to secure the scene of the incident afterwards until the casings were found.

Several months later, Dr. Lee released a report on the evidence and suggested to the Criminal Investigation Bureau to trace the suspect according to the casings and bullets. In March 2005, Chen Yi-hsiung, a local Tainan resident, was the main suspect for the shooting but allegedly committed suicide 8 days after the election. The Criminal Investigation Bureau closed the case in August 2005 implicating him as the shooter. But in 2006, James Chun-i Lee, a professor at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of Forensic Medicine, led an investigation and concluded that Chen Yi-hsiung was most likely murdered, because his body, wrapped in a fishing net, was dumped into the water only after he died. Another report reached by the Criminal Investigation Bureau task force concludes that the two bullets could not have come from the same pistol because a 9.1 mm bullet would not fit into a 9 mm pistol that the police said was used by the suspect.[9] The KMT continues to claim that it was all engineered by Chen to this day.

Throughout the election, Chen planned to hold a referendum in 2006 on a new constitution to be enacted upon the accession of the 12th-term president in May 2008. After the election, he sought to reassure critics and moderate supporters that the new constitution would not address the issue of sovereignty, and that the current constitution was in need of comprehensive reform after more than a decade of patchwork revision.

There have been two interpretations of Chen's actions during the election in terms of independence politics. The first is that he is ideologically committed to advancing Taiwan independence and that his actions are intended to systematically remove the constraints which prevent this from occurring. Seen in this light, his actions are intended to provoke a crisis in which the PRC must either start a war or accept independence, with the expectation that the PRC would back down. Ironically, this interpretation of his actions is shared both among his most fervent supporters (who think it is a good thing) and his most bitter opponents (who think that it is a bad thing). It is largely to counter this possibility that the PRC has issued statements that it will definitely go to war if certain red lines are crossed. However, they in reality carry little meaning, as Beijing has made such statements warning against electing former President Lee and Chen in the 1996 and 2000 elections, which both failed to materialize. Some people regard these statements now as reverse psychology, as Lee and Chen may help to weaken ROC and advance the unification process.

The second interpretation is that Chen's actions were primarily intended to placate his core supporters rather than provoke a crisis. People who subscribe to this interpretation point out that Chen's early efforts to moderate his pro-independence position did not create a positive reaction either from the PRC or from his anti-independence opponents on Taiwan. He also alienated some pro-independence supporters. Therefore Chen was forced to take a more assertive approach both as a negotiation tactic with the PRC and to keep support from his core supporters. This strategy is consistent with the oft-stated position that Taiwan would only seek independence as a preemptive measure in the face of evidence of PRC military aggression. However, even this interpretation provokes unease among many people, especially among policy makers in the PRC and the United States. The first problem is that this interpretation makes Chen seem like an old-style Taiwan politician that seems to say whatever pleases people. The second, more serious problem is the fear that through misunderstanding and misinterpretation, Chen may have provoked a war without intending to do so, as the PRC has repeatedly claimed that any progress towards independence would provoke war.

Second term

On May 20, 2004, Chen was sworn in for his second term as President amid continued mass protests by the pan-blue alliance over the validity of his re-election. Having heard protests from pro-independence figures in Taiwan, he did not explicitly re-state the Four Noes and One Without but did state that he reaffirmed the commitments made in his first inaugural. He defended his proposals to change the constitution, but asked for constitutional reform to be undertaken through existing procedures instead of calling for a referendum for an entirely new constitution which was proposed by former president Lee Teng-hui. This would require approval by a three-fourths majority of the National Assembly which could authorize a referendum. This has two major implications. First, by going through existing constitutional amendment procedures, this has the symbolic effect of maintaining continuity with the existing constitution which was originally written in China. Second, this has the practical effect of requiring the Chen administration to get the consent of the opposition Pan-Blue coalition to pass any amendments, and while the opposition is willing to consider constitutional reforms that would increase governmental efficiency, they are unlikely to support anything that would imply a de jure declaration of independence.

However, even these seemingly conciliatory gestures did not quell unease by his critics at his election. Some have pointed out that he qualified his statements on the constitution with the statement that this is a personal suggestion. Furthermore, it is widely believed in Taiwan that some of these gestures were essentially forced on him again by pressure from the United States and the PRC. The PRC has stated many times that it cares little about what Chen says, but will watch closely in the next few months to see what he does, a standard sentence that Communist China continues to quote.

Chen Shui-bian addressed his opening speech at "2006 Taiwan Sports Elite Awards"

Three days before Chen's inauguration, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the PRC issued what has become known as the May 17 Declaration. In that declaration, China accused Chen of continuing with a creep toward independence, having merely paid lip service to his commitments in his first term of office, and reiterated that there would be consequences if Chen did not halt policies toward Taiwan independence, but at the same time offered major concessions if Chen would accept the One China Principle.

In late 2004, in effort to maintain the balance of power in the region, Chen began eagerly pushing for an US$18 billion arms purchase from the United States, but the Pan-Blue Coalition repeatedly blocked the deal in the legislature. Criticism has been made of this, citing contradictory arguments used, such as that the weapons were not what Taiwan needed, or that the weapons were a good idea but too expensive. By late 2006, the KMT had signalled it would support some of the arms sale being approved, but failed to pass a revised arms bill by the end of the legislative session in early 2007, despite promises by then KMT Chairman, Ma Ying-jeou, to do that.

Chen announced on December 5 that state-owned or private enterprises and foreign offices bearing the name "China", such as China Airlines, the China Steel Corporation, and Chinese Petroleum Corporation, would be renamed to bear the name "Taiwan." On December 14, 2004, following the failure of the Pan-Green coalition to gain a majority of seats in the ROC legislative election, 2004 (as many had expected to occur), Chen resigned as chairman of the DPP. This dashed hopes that the stalemate that plagued Chen's first term would end.

In 2005 Chen became the first ROC president to visit Europe, when he attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican City (the Holy See continues to maintain diplomatic relations with the ROC). In order to shore up diplomatic support, it is common for the ROC president to visit the ROC's remaining diplomatic allies; however past presidents had been prevented from visiting the Vatican because such a visit would require passage through Italy, which maintains relations with the PRC. Under agreement with the Vatican, Italy permitted all guests to the funeral passage without hindrance and Chen was received at Rome's airport in his capacity as a foreign head of state. In this religious ceremony where US President George W. Bush greeted Iranian President Khatami, Chen did not seem to attempt making a high profile of himself by reaching out to other heads of states such as Bush or British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Chen was named one of the Time 100 for 2005.[10]

Later in the year, Chen traveled to Miami in stopover for a forum in the Caribbean. He met with members of the U.S. Congress through video conference and was invited to visit Washington, D.C. On his way back, he was originally scheduled to fly through San Francisco. However, he changed course and stopped-over at the United Arab Emirates. The head of state greeted him and hosted a formal state dinner, infuriating the Chinese officials. Chen made his way back after making a stopover at Jakarta. His request for a pitstop at Singapore was denied; authorities cited weather problems.

On May 3, 2006, Chen cancelled plans to pass through the United States on his way to Latin America. He was hoping to stop by either San Francisco or New York City to refuel and stay overnight, but the US refused his request instead limiting him to a brief refuelling stopover in Anchorage, Alaska where Chen would not be allowed to step off the plane. Chen and Taiwan saw this as a snub and led to Chen's cancellation. The trip to Latin America will continue, however, without a US stopover. The US State Department claimed that the Alaska stopover offer was consistent with its previous accommodations. However, former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui was granted a visit to Cornell University eleven years ago. More recently, in addition, Taiwan's leaders have in general been granted permission to stopover in the United States for brief periods before continuing on to other countries. This recent American stance is interpreted by Taiwan to be an expression of the increasing irritation the United States feels towards Taiwan and Chen's seemingly pro-independence gestures. Chen attended the inauguration of Óscar Arias, the president of Costa Rica, one of the few countries that recognized the Republic of China at that time. Laura Bush was also present to represent U.S. president George W. Bush. Chen seized the opportunity, approached her and shook her hands, while Chen's aide produced a camera immediately for an impromptu photo-op. Chen's supporters saw this act as a step forward in Taiwan's struggle for diplomatic recognition, while his detractors claimed that it was a grave breach of international etiquette and put Taiwan to shame.

On May 12, 2007, Premier Su Tseng-Chang resigned his position, and Chen soon appointed Chang Chun-hsiung to fill the vacant premiership. During Chen's tenure, beginning in 2000, the country has seen six different premiers in the past seven years. During the same period of time, from 2000 onward, the Democratic Progressive Party has also seen seven different chairmen.

Chen's tenure as President expired on May 20, 2008, yielding to successor Ma Ying-Jeou. From his election to his first term to his last days as President, Chen's approval ratings fell from 79% to just 21%.[11]

Family scandals

In May 2006, his approval rating, as determined by the TSU, fell to 5.8%,[12] after a series of scandals centered around his wife and son-in-law. Additional sources showed his approval rating at around 20%.[12] Support from his own party has also dropped with a few members calling for his dismissal as he had a bad influence on his party and has already caused them to lose the Republic of China presidential election, 2008[citation needed].

On May 24, 2006, his son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, was taken into custody by the Taipei police on charges of insider trading and embezzlement by the opposition party. This was a setback for the Chen Shui-bian administration. In related charges, there were accusations from the opposition party that Chen Shui-bian's wife was involved in trading stocks and obtaining Pacific Sogo Department Store's gift certificates illegally in exchange for settling the disputed ownership.[citation needed]

On June 1, 2006, Chen declared that he was handing control of governmental matters to Premier Su Tseng-chang and announced he would not be involved in campaigning. He also stated that he was retaining authority on matters that the Constitution required him to retain authority over, presumably foreign affairs and defense policy, as well as relations with the PRC.[13]

On July 20, 2006, Opposition politicians accused that Chen used a total of NT$10.2 million (US$310,000) worth of "fake invoices" to claim expenses after the National Audit Office found irregularities in Presidential Office accounts. The Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office is currently investigating over this accusation.[14]

In a press release issued by the Presidential Office responded that the president assured the investigators that he did not pocket a single cent of the fund. During questioning at the Presidential Office on the afternoon of August 7, 2006, the president detailed to the prosecutor how he spent the fund and presented relevant receipts and bank remittance statements.[15]

President Chen also lost a libel case brought on successfully by PFP Chairman James Soong. Soong sued the President after Chen repeatedly accused him of secretly meeting the director of the People's Republic of China's Taiwan Affairs Office. Soong successfully sued Chen for NT$3 million.[16]

On November 3, 2006, Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen and three other high ranking officials of the Presidential Office were indicted of corruption of NT$14.8 million (USD$450,000) of government funds using faked documents. Due to the protection from the Constitution against prosecution of the sitting president, Chen could not be prosecuted until he left office, and he was not indicted, but was alleged to be an accomplice on his wife's indictment.[17]

The prosecutor of the case has indicated that once Chen leaves office, his office will start the procedures to press charges against Chen. His wife Wu becomes the first sitting First Lady of the Republic of China to face criminal charges since the foundation of the Republic in 1911.[citation needed]

The indictment filed by prosecutors states that the indicted persons obtained government funds earmarked for secret foreign affairs, yet of six supposed secret diplomatic missions, there was sufficient evidence presented for only two. Of the remaining four, it was concluded that one did not exist, and in the case of the other three, the invoices presented were not found to be related to the secret missions.[citation needed]

The Pan-Blue coalition, after receiving the news, demanded to call for another recall motion unless Chen resigned immediately. Another small party that backed Chen previously, Taiwan Solidarity Union, said Friday they would likely to support the upcoming recall measure. If the recall passed, it would be up to the voters to decide Chen's fate in an island-wide referendum.

Leaders of the Democratic Progressive Party met together to discuss the unfavorable charges. The meeting ended when party leaders demanded Chen to explain the accusation within three days. There has long been crumbling inside the DPP that Chen has become their liability and should recall him before the presidential election. If Chen resigned, he would be the first Taiwanese president to step down and the vice-president, Annette Lu, would likely take power.

After the prosecutor announced the indictment news, the campaign leader Shih proclaimed that the indictment was the historical high point in Taiwan and the month long campaign was a success.[citation needed]

In a press conference November 5, 2006, Chen rebutted the charges against his wife and members of his Presidential office. He said that Taiwan government offices advised him to prepare the receipts in such a fashion, and that after six years of doing so, it is strange that they would never mention an irregularity if it was not the right way to do it. He promised that all of the money actually went to diplomatic missions and did not go into any private pockets. Furthermore, he mentioned that when he took office, he thought his salary was so excessive that he cut his own salary in half, and that reduction is more than the amount he is accused of embezzling, so there is no need for him to take those money. In addition, he said that if the charges against his wife were proven in a court of law just as they were charged, then he would at that time step down as President of the Republic of China.[citation needed]

In defense of Chen, journalist Therese Shaheen of The Wall Street Journal Asia pointed out that controversy surrounding Chen can be in part attributed to the radical reforms he has tried to implement since stepping into power.[18]

Recall motion

In mid-June 2007, opposition pan-blue camp lawmakers initiated a recall motion that would allow the voters to remove Chen from power via a public referendum. On June 20, President Chen addressed the nation by television, denying any involvement of the first family or himself (other than his son-in-law) in any of the alleged scandals, or "directly" accepting the department's gift certificates.[19] The motion was not passed. Of 221 lawmakers in the Legislature, all 119 pan-blue and independent legislators voted in favor of the measure, 29 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the motion. Pan-green legislators from the president's own party, the DPP, refused to receive ballots. Pan-Green legislators from the allied TSU cast abstaining ballots. No legislator voted against the recall motion.

After Wu was indicted, the Pan-Blue parties renewed calls to recall Chen, and TSU at first indicated that it would support the recall this time, but then said it would only support the new recall motion if "concrete evidence concerning corruption is presented."[20]

File:Taiwan's demonstrators1.JPG
The "Besiege the Presidential Office" demonstration on October 10, 2006

On September 1, 2006, political activist Shih Ming-te launched an "anti-corruption campaign". The movement accused Chen of corruption and asked for his resignation. By September 7, more than one million signatures were collected, each with a donation of NT$100 (approximately US$3.00).[21] On September 9, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the streets of Taiwan, wearing red. According to organisers, around 200,000 to 300,000 people joined the protest outside the presidential offices, but the police used aerial photography crowd counting techniques to put the number at about 90,000.[22] Shih Ming-teh confirmed that most of his supporters are from the Pan-Blue Coalition in a September interview in The New York Times.

2008 elections

In the Republic of China legislative election in 2008, Chen's party suffered a clear defeat, and Chen subsequently resigned as party chairman. With Chen's resignation and Frank Hsieh's ascension as the party's new chairman, the DPP has changed chairmen seven times since Chen took office in 2000.

In the presidential election on March 22, 2008, Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou defeated DPP candidate Frank Hsieh.

Post-presidency

Chen stepped down on May 20, 2008, the same day that Ma Ying-jeou took office as the new President of the Republic of China[23] Just one hour after he left the Presidential Office Building, as a former President of the Republic of China and having lost his presidential immunity, he was controlled and limited from leaving the country by Taiwanese prosecutors due to allegations of corruption and abuse of authority. Chen has been named as a suspect in a fraud case involving the handling of a special presidential fund used to pursue Taiwan's foreign diplomacy. The Supreme Prosecutor's Office stated that: "We have formally started the investigation of the special expenses case concerning former president Chen. The office has assigned ... a seven-member investigative unit to take charge of the case."[24]

President Ma Ying-jeou moved to declassify documents that will aid in the investigation of the former president's use of special expenses. President Ma was then swiftly sued by Chen's lawyers on August 6, 2008, calling Ma's declassification of case-aiding documents, "politically motivated." The documents which were sought were classified earlier by Chen. The documents are mostly receipts and records of use of special expenses, and, according to Ma's chief aide, their declassification and release pose no danger to the country's interests.[25]

Alleged money laundering

On August 14, 2008, shortly following rival party KMT legislator's press conference announcing the existence of a request for money laundering investigation assistance letter from the Swiss government, the former president called an evening press conference and admitted that his past election campaigns had misstated election finance expenses, and had leftover monies in campaign coffers forwarded to overseas accounts. Chen stated during the conference, "My conscience has told me that I cannot continue to lie to myself or to others, so I will choose to be bluntly honest: I have, in the past, committed deeds that are against the rule of law, and I am willing, for all campaign finance dishonesty from my four elections for mayor and for president, to apologize to the people".[26]

Chen claims that the money was wired overseas by his wife and without his knowing. There is also an investigation launched by Swiss authorities over a Swiss bank account bearing Chen's daughter-in-law's name: roughly US$31 million were wired to the account from Taiwan and was then forwarded again to an account in the Cayman Islands. Swiss and Taiwan authorities are cooperating in investigating whether or not there are instances of money laundering committed by members of the former first family. It is unknown whether or not the wiring of the Swiss accounts and the wiring of campaign money overseas by Mrs. Chen are related.[27] Chen and his wife are currently restricted from leaving Taiwan.

Chen's August 14 admission was a stunning reversal to just one day earlier, on August 13, when he vehemently denied a Next Magazine story which reported the same story.

The following day, August 15, Chen announced that both he and his wife will leave the Democratic Progressive Party for good from the fallout of the previous day's admission.[28]

Reaction to Chen's admission has been negative. Former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (1994-96), claimed to have been eating while Chen called his press conference, and threw his chopsticks down in anger upon hearing his confession.[29] Chen's vice-president for throughout his eight years, Annette Lu, has said, "If I had not heard it with my own ears, I would not have believed it; I am still in disbelief. Any person who genuinely loves Taiwan will not wire money of contributors and of the people overseas. The former first family have affronted Taiwan and the Taiwanese people" [30]

Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen, on August 15, resigned from the Democratic Progressive Party and apologized, thus: “Today I have to say sorry to all of the DPP members and supporters. I let everyone down, caused you humiliation and failed to meet your expectations. My acts have caused irreparable damage to the party. I love the DPP deeply and am proud of being a DPP member. To express my deepest regrets to all DPP members and supporters, I announce my withdrawal from the DPP immediately. My wife Wu Shu-jen is also withdrawing from the party.” DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen also apologized to the public on behalf of the party: “In regard to Chen and his wife’s decision to withdraw from the party and his desire to shoulder responsibility for his actions as well as to undergo an investigation by the party’s anti-corruption committee, we respect his decision and accept it.”[31] Taiwan prosecutors on August 16 interrogated Wu Shu-chen and asked her to explain overseas money transactions. A Kuomintang (KMT) party member alleged that Chen's wife bought jewelry to launder money. Hung Hsiu-chu, a member of the ruling KMT, charged that Chen's family opened four bank accounts in Switzerland, with total deposits of US$32 million, which Chen remitted through his daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching.[32]

On August 17, Supreme Court Prosecutor's Office announced Taiwanese investigators took away boxes of documents, after search of Chen's home in Taipei City, his office, and in Tainan, at the home of his wife's brother Wu Ching-mao. Chen was prohibited by prosecutors from leaving Taiwan. Chen has US$21 million at overseas banks held in the name of family members.[33] Shih Ming-teh, a former leader of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party accused Chen of laundering at least NT$85 million from an entrepreneur bidding for bank ownership in 2005.[34] Coast Guard Administration spokesman Hsieh Ching-chin said: "We received the order from the special investigation unit around 9:20 p.m. last night saying former president Chen was barred from leaving the country." Chen's probe concerns NT$14.8 million (US$480,500) in special expenses from the government, while he was president, and his wife is on trial for corruption and document forgery. Prosecutors found at least NT$1.5 million had been spent on diamond rings and other luxury items for his wife.[35] Upon his return to Taiwan, Chen's son claimed that he was a mere "figurehead," and was not directly involved in the transfer of money.[36]

Chen commented upon the public's suspicions that he had engaged in money laundering by colorfully stating: "Money is dry, it cannot be washed (laundered); money is clean, not dirty, it does not need to be washed (laundered)." [37]

On October 31, 2008, Chiou I-jen was arrested and detained incommunicado, by Supreme Prosecutors Office's Special Investigation Division Prosecutors, for alleged embezzlement of about US$500,000 (£308,000) from diplomatic funds, in 2004, as secretary-general of the National Security Council.[38] Chen Shui-bian called his arrest a "political persecution" by the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang government amid and after another senior DPP member – Chiayi County magistrate Chen Ming-wen's detention on corruption charges: "The government abused the laws and its powers to persecute and humiliate us but the people and the history will return justice to us and prove our innocence. The government of President Ma Ying-jeou is settling old scores in the name of a campaign against corruption. The Special Investigation Division (SID), in order to indict and convict me, has been taking high-profile actions, locking up members of the former government team one by one."[39] Chiou I-jen is the 8th suspect in spin-offs of Chen Shui-bian's money laundering probes under the jurisdiction of the Taipei District Court.[40][41][42]

Arrest and detention

Chen was escorted by security staff, on November 11, 2008, into the Taipei prosecutor's office for questioning. He was served a subpoena for the fifth time by the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) on November 10, but he opted to exercise his right to remain silent in the 6-month SIP money-laundering probe, and the case terminated on November 24. Chen alleged that "The KMT and the Chinese Communist Party see me as their number one prisoner as I am the biggest stone blocking their way to reunification. Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin had a bad time in Taiwan... so (Taiwan's President) Ma Ying-jeou wants to put me in jail as a sacrifice to appease China. I am very honoured and proud to play such a role.". He further said "the voice of Taiwanese people can never be suppressed by heavy-handed riot police presence, nor could it be clamped down by razor wires; Taiwan independence; my heart with be with all 23 million people... I will spend the rest of my limited life to fight for justice with the public; the prosecutors would file a request to detain me and the Taipei District Court would grant the request for detention. Long live Taiwanese democracy. Long live Taiwanese independence."[43][44][45] On 12 November 2008, Taiwan Affairs Office of the PRC in a routine press conference denied the allegation describing it as a "rumour". It further stated it "believes that people can see through the purpose behind this clumsy tactic of rumour making".[46]

After six hours, Chen left the Supreme Court prosecutor's office in handcuffs, arrested and detained. He held his cuffed hands up for journalists and shouted "Political persecution! Long live Taiwan!" Prosecutors, led by Investigation spokesman Chen Yun-nan, filed a detention request with the Taipei District Court. He said he would enter "Taiwan's Bastille (Tuchen Jail)," but "it will only lock up my body, not my heart." The charges carry each a minimum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.[47][48][49][50]

Chen, 57, arrived at the Taipei district court,[51][52][53] after the prosecutor's marathon interrogation (from 9:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on November 11). The 11-hour trial started at 8:00 p.m. on November 11. The Court suspended the proceedings, after Chen's lawyer Lai Ching-te claimed a policeman hit him.[54] Chen was rushed to National Taiwan University Hospital, and after 2 hours, the doctors confirmed a slight right arm muscle injury due to strain, possibly caused by a police officer's unintentional pulling of his arm while being detained.[55]

Following a night of deliberation, the Taipei District Court formally arrested and jailed Chen, at 7:06 a.m. on November 12, under an order that dids not constitute an indictment. Huang Chun-min, Taipei district court spokesman quoted the ruling: "The court, after questioning the suspect, believes the suspected crimes to be severe. And there are enough facts to believe there was buried evidence, fabrication, altered evidence and conspiracy among suspects or witnesses."[56] He was sent to the Taipei Detention Center, 8:00 a.m., where, as a dissident leader 21 years ago, he served eight months for defaming a Nationalist Party official.[57] Chen's attorneys' filed waiver of his right to appeal the order.[58] Chen, banned from communicating with anybody outside the Taipei Detention Center, joined nine others detained on alleged laundering (US?/NT?)$30 million, which included Ma Yong-cheng, Chiou I-Jen, the ex-vice premier, Yeh Sheng-mao, and Chen’s brother-in-law, Wu Ching-mao, inter alia.[59] Chen was assigned prisoner number 2630.

Hunger strike and privileges

His lawyer Cheng Wen-long (鄭文龍) stated, on November 13: "He intends to stop eating in protest ... in an okay condition now. He's not eating anything. I've been urging him, but he still refuses. Chen was willing to stay in the dark prison cell (Tucheng detention center in Taipei) for the people... to protest the death of justice and the regression of democracy ... he can sacrifice his life for the "Republic of Taiwan" (quotation). His arrest is like 'sentencing without a trial'. Chen had only drunk water since entering a detention centre early Wednesday and had not eaten a proper meal since late Tuesday."[60] Corrections official Lee Ta-chu said his institution "is monitoring (Chen's) situation closely."[61]

Meanwhile, Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi, stated "the office will act in accordance with a statute which allows for a secret service team of 8 to 12 persons assigned to a former president, for a payment of NT$250,000 per month to made to him, and for him to collect an annual allocation of up to NT$8 million to cover the expenses of day-to-day operation of his office. Except for the security detail, Chen will retain all other aspects of the preferential treatment. The Presidential Office has listed NT$11.25 million in its 2009 annual budget for allocation to Chen."[62][63][64]

Chen ended his two-week hunger strike on November 27.[65][66]

Hospitalization, appeal and petition for release

On November 16, 2008, Chen collapsed and was rushed to Taipei's Far Eastern Memorial Hospital due to complications and weakness from dehydration caused by six days of malnutrition. He was treated with saline and glucose injections after experiencing "an excessively fast heartbeat and tightness in chest," amid slow metabolism. Chen was transferred to the Panchiao Hospital Monday for possible force-feeding.[67]

Despite Chen's lack of interest to appeal, his lawyer Cheng Wen-long completed the motion to release from detention and notice of appeal of the court's decision, with a petition for constitutional interpretation to restrain actions violative of the Constitution.[68][69][70][71][72]

Public opinion after his detention

According to an opinion poll taken by renowned Taiwanese news channel TVBS on 12 November 2008, shortly after Chen's arrest, 57% of the respondents believed that Chen was detained for corruption, 15% believed Chen was detained due to political oppression, 5% believed it was both, while 23% did not express an opinion. 63% of people believed that Chen was guilty, 13% of the respondents believed that Chen was innocent, while 24% did not express an opinion.[73]

The Straits Times of Singapore reports that Chen tried to drum up the image of himself as a martyr of Taiwan before his arrest, but that the public remains largely unconvinced; polling by Apple Daily reveals that 69% approve of Chen's arrest with just 22% believing that the arrest was politically motivated.[74]

Former President Lee Teng-hui also defended the prosecution in its detaining of Chen, saying that Chen has to be more responsible, that Chen "cannot blame the world for his own wrongs".[75] Chen has also repeatedly accused Lee of funneling cash to overseas accounts, an unproven charge which Lee has vehemently denied. Lee, on Dec. 21, added that while Chen has built his image on wanting Taiwanese independence, all he has ever had his eyes on are "New Taiwan Dollars and personal status"[76]. Lee also ridiculed Chen's accusations that he, too, sent money overseas, stating that any investigation of him will not incur his ire and will not lessen his [Chen's] own legal challenges. Lee himself stated that he is clean, that if he were ever found to be guilty, he would have no problems going to jail to face his punishment.[77]

Graham Watson, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament, told the Taiwanese media that Chen should not have been handcuffed when he was taken to court for a detention hearing. "There should also be a rule of civility," he said, adding that as Chen was unlikely to escape, handcuffing the former president had been unnecessary.[78]

An examination of Western media finds that none of the leading news agencies from around the globe (including CNN, NBC, BBC, CBS) that covered the Chen arrest found it to be unfair or politically motivated.[79] However, legal experts and scholars reportedly have quietly complained about biased judges and political prosecution, the lack of progress on judicial reform and the continued detention of former president Chen Shui-bian. According to professor Jerome Cohen, co-director of New York University US-Asia law institute and president Ma Ying-jeou's supervisor during his studies at Harvard University, the legal academics complained to him about the injustices within the system in private because they feared they would be accused of being a pan-green supporter or of being soft on corruption. Others said that going public would make little difference.[80]

Former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh also spoke out against Chen's assertions that he is a political prisoner. Shih said that Chen's hunger strike won't transform Chen from a criminal to a political prisoner.[81]

Formal indictment and further developments

Former President Chen Shui-bian was released without bail on 13 December 2008 after being indicted for money-laundering and misuse of public funds hours earlier. The district court ordered that Chen remain in Taiwan to face pending trial.[82][83] Chen was arraigned before judges at the Taipei district court, where he protested the "political persecution" against him. Chen reaffirmed his innocence, claiming the US$21 million his wife wired to their son's Swiss bank accounts came from leftover campaign donations.[84] Also indicted were former first lady Wu Shu-chen, their son Chen Chih-chung and their son's wife Huang Jui-ching, as well as other relatives, friends and top assistants. Two of the nine other defendants are relatives of the Chen family. Prosecutors say Chen and his wife together embezzled NT$104 million (US$3.12 million) from a special presidential fund, and received bribes of US$11.73 million in connection with a government land procurement deal and a separate construction project. Prosecutor Lin Che-hui said that a particularly damning piece of evidence was the presence of NT$740 million (US$22.2 million) in cash stashed in a Taipei bank safety vault held by the Chens.[84] "Ex-president Chen Shui-bian's crimes are major," said Chen Yun-nan, spokesman for the Supreme Court's special prosecutor's office. "We will ask the courts to give ex-president Chen Shui-bian the strictest punishment".[85] President Ma Ying-jeou made no comment on the indictment, but Democratic Progressive Party leaders demanded that Chen be released on bail.[86] No other former President of the Republic of China has faced criminal prosecution.[85]

First appeal for continued detention

On 16 December 2008, prosecutors of the Special Counsel filed an appeal to reverse Chen's release and to resume his detention out of fear Chen may flee the country. "After serving as president for eight years", the appeal said, "Chen Shui-bian knows the national security mechanism full well, and the chances he has to flee the country are greater than ordinary citizens".[87] The appeal cited several instances where other leaders (such as Alberto Fujimori of Peru, Pavlo Lazarenko of Ukraine, Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand, and Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines) having been indicted, fled their respective countries after they had been charged with corruption and graft.[87] On December 18, Judge Chou again ruled that Chen be released without bail, albeit the High Court warned of the possibility that he may collaborate or intimidate other defendants, including his relatives and Yu Cheng-hsien, former minister of the interior.[87]

Second appeal for continued detention

On 25 December 2008, prosecutors of the same counsel appealed for the second time for continued detention of the former President.[88] In this second appeal, the prosecution urged the Taiwan High Court to decide to detain or release Chen rather than remit the case to Judge Chou Chan-chun (周占春) again.[89] Reversing their initial decision not to appeal, Special Counsel prosecutors submitted their written appeal to the Taiwan high court, requesting that Chen be detained. The grounds for the detention remain the same (fear that the former President might leave the country, conspire with witnesses or destroy evidence).[88][89] The chances are that the High Court will pass the buck back to Chou,[citation needed] who said in releasing Chen for the second time, he hopes he would not have to hand down the same ruling again. One reason for the appellate court to remit the case again is that the Special Counsel failed to elaborate on the possibility of Chen’s intimidation of other defendants. Rather it kept on elaborating on the possibility of Chen’s escape alone. Another piece of evidence produced to sustain this second appeal was the fact that bodyguards stay overnight on the ground floor of the Paolai Estate in Taipei, where the Chens live in an 11th floor apartment. "There is little chance the bodyguards would know what is happening on the 11th floor," the new appeal says.[89]

Judge change

The next day, the 26th of December, in a meeting held among the court’s presiding judges, a vote decided that Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) would take over the Chen-related case from Presiding Judge Chou Chan-chun because Tsai had previously handled cases concerning Chen.[90] Judges at the court held a raffle for the assignment to handle the case.[91] Panning the move as "political intervention", DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) yesterday declared that “the judiciary is doomed".[90] Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), who is Chen’s defense attorney made his own public declaration: "We do not care for how the Special Investigation Panel is conducting itself. How can the court change the judges after the lots have already been openly cast? (By doing so,) the public confidence in the system will greatly decrease".[90] However, legislators of the ruling Kuomintang, such as Chiu Yi questioned whether Tsai had the wherewithal to rule in Chen’s case: "Over the past two years, Tsai Shou-shun has allowed Wu Shu-jen (Chen's wife) to be absent from 18 court proceedings. The case has been stalled for more than two years and wasted a lot of public resources".[90]

Lee Teng-hui connection

This same day (26 December), in an event related to this case, the Special Investigation Panel of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office announced it would investigate former president Lee Teng-hui, who preceded Chen Shui-bian in the presidency of the Republic of China on suspicion of money laundering.[92][93] SIP spokesman Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) held a meeting with reporters. When asked if former president Chen Shui-bian was the accuser as some local media had reported, the prosecutor said "yes".[92][93] Political reactions to this new accusation soon emerged: Taiwan Solidarity Union Secretary-General Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉) slammed Chen Shui-bian for blurring the focus of the case by allegedly accusing Lee (the staunchly pro-independence party’s spiritual leader). "Everyone knows Chen's only tactic left is to blur the focus. I am 200 percent confident in Lee’s integrity,"[92] Lin declared. Later the same day however, one of Chen Shui-bian’s defense attorneys, Shih Yi-lin (石宜琳), said his client never filed any complaints with the prosecutors against Lee.[92] Lee denied the charges on December 21, and said he welcomed investigation. On Friday the 26th, his office declined to comment on the prosecutors' move.[93]

On 27 December 2008, former Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Lin Cho-shui lashed out at the former president for not only being a corrupt president, but also a "ratting" president who is seriously plaguing the DPP, Taiwan, and the Taiwan independence movement.[94] Lin declared this in response to press reports that Chen accused Lee Teng-hui of embezzling NT$ 1.6 billion from the national coffers when interrogated by prosecutors of his corruption scandals, but then immediately asked his lawmaker to deny the accusation after prosecutors confirmed that Chen did file the accusation against Lee. Lin said that Lee should face legal prosecution if he was really involved in the corruption scandal as accused by Chen, also adding that if Chen ratted on Lee's embezzlement scandal based on a sense of justice, "why is it okay for him to embezzle a tremendous amount of money, and why is it okay to accuse Lee and then deny the accusation?"[94] "Such a ratting practice by Chen is designed mainly to divert public attention away from his corruption cases," Lin said.[94]

This same day, former President of the Republic of China Lee Teng-hui said that the country's power transfer of 2000 only "provided someone with the opportunity to take bribes and launder money".[95] He also added that "It is a pity that one man was able to mess up the administration's governance so badly." In another moment of his speech at the annual meeting of the Chiayi chapter of the Friends of Lee Teng-hui Association he declared that "what is even more pitiful is that some people continue to support the corrupt politician in defiance of his approaching court trial".[95] "They (the supporters of Chen Shui-bian) cannot tell right from wrong".[96] He never mentioned the name of Chen in any moment. He also had harsh words for the Ma Ying-jeou administration, concerning the management of the Global financial crisis of 2008,[95] also stating that democracy and the human rights conditions in Taiwan have been back pedaling since the 2008 legislative and presidential Kuomintang victories and the transfer of power.[96]

Chen has accused Lee of having laundered as much as US$ 51 million through overseas dummy accounts, but Lee has repeatedly denied the allegations. Before boarding a high-speed train to Chiayi, when asked to comment on the money laundering allegations, he declared that "that's laughable stuff".[96]

Back into detention (second appeal result)

On 29 December 2008, the former President strongly defended himself again as innocent of all corruption charges at a prolonged hearing held by three judges of Taipei District Court that tried to determine whether to put the former national leader back into custody on the second request of prosecutors. The debated hearing session started at 2:00 p.m. that day and continued into the early morning on the 30th of December.[97] He was accompanied by a team of three lawyers. Outside the district court a large number of police were deployed to prevent possible confrontation between Chen's supporters and opponents. Chen's lawyers complained to new presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) about the lopsided manpower on each side, saying there were six prosecutors present at the hearing versus only four on their side (three lawyers plus Chen, who himself is a licensed lawyer).[98] Tsai rejected all the requests. The former President stressed that he never took bribes concerning the payoff involving the construction of the Nangang Exhibition Hall or the transaction of a land parcel related to an industrial park in Longtan, Taoyuan County. Concerning the deposits at bank accounts abroad, Chen stressed that the money deposited abroad was all leftover from political contributions he received and expenditures on campaigns. His lawyers also defined the money as residual funds from election campaigns and said Chen did not break any law because there were no regulations requiring candidates to report their finances at the time when the money was wired abroad. Concerning the land transaction, the prosecutors pointed out that Chen used his position to force the Cabinet to change its position to approve the deal. As a result, Taiwan Cement Corporation paid NT$400 million as commission for the land purchase. A total of NT$196 million of the total amount was passed through several bank accounts held by the former first family and friends abroad in an attempt to hide the illegality of the fund, the prosecutors said. They also stressed, as in the first appeal, the necessity to place Chen under detention because there are several other scams allegedly related to him which are still under probe.[97] The prosecutors have so far uncovered at least NT$740 million in illegal gains tied to the Chen family but they were able to seize only NT$172 million of the total fund.[98]

After considering the case, this same day (30 December), the Court ordered former President Chen Shui-bian returned to jail pending trial on corruption charges, accepting prosecutors' arguments that he be locked up to prevent him fleeing or colluding with alleged co-conspirators.[99] In a statement the Taipei District Court said Chen's detention was necessary for his trial to go smoothly: "Out of concerns for human rights and the public interest, Chen Shui-bian should be detained but he should also be allowed to receive visitors".[99] Chen was taken back to Tucheng detention center in suburban Taipei early on 30 December, following a 12-hour court hearing. He spent 31 days in Tucheng after his arrest 12 November. During that time he was only allowed to see his lawyers. Chen's lawyers said they will appeal the new detention order.[99] One of the former president's lawyers, Cheng Wen-lung (Jen Wenlong), described the ruling as "unfair" and vowed to appeal: "The ruling is not a surprise, because apparently it is the result of politics intervening in justice," the lawyer said. "My client... said he would keep striving to prove his innocence," he said.[100] He also stated that: "We question the work of the Taipei district court. Changing the judge is an interference with the justice system".[101]

Political reactions to this new development soon emerged following party lines: Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen said that the government and the judicial authorities should explain to the public why they felt it necessary to detain Chen ahead of his trial. "The detention and handcuffing of Chen ahead of his trail may have violated the Constitution," she said, also adding that the government should clear up doubts on whether the change of judges before Chen’s trial was a result of political pressure.[102] Chen's office criticized the decision to re-detain Chen, saying it once again highlighted the Ma Ying-jeou administration’s efforts to wage judicial persecution and a political vendetta against the former President. The statement also denounced the new presiding judge, saying his argument for Chen’s custody was nothing but a show cooked up for the purpose of sending him back to prison.[102] The office of the former President also questioned the impartiality of Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), who they said was not only “arrogant” but also "blind".[102] When asked for comment, Kuomintang Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) applauded the court’s detention of Chen: "The court’s decision to detain Chen Shui-bian was the best possible gift to the public before year’s end. All of the witnesses (in the case) no longer need to be afraid," Lee said.[102]

Taiwan High Court ruling

On 6 January 2009, the Taiwan High Court upheld a lower court decision to detain the former President.[103] The High Court determined that Chen's appeal against the Taipei District Court's ruling was unjustified and concluded that Chen's detention is necessary to facilitate subsequent trials.[104] It mentioned the possibility that Chen could run away, destroy or forge evidence, or collude with co-conspirators. No further appeal of the detention ruling is permitted.[105] Chen's lawyer Cheng Wen-lung called the ruling "unlawful" and "unconstitutional", and said he will petition for a constitutional interpretation by the Constitutional Court on behalf of the former President. The High Court stated in its ruling that Chen's intent to flee was demonstrated by the fact that the former first family has tried to conceal its alleged illicit gains in bank accounts created under the names of other people.[104]

The court made the ruling after Chen's lawyer appealed the Taipei District Court's December 29 decision to put Chen back into custody. The trial was scheduled to begin at the Taipei District Court on January 19.[106]

On September 11, 2009, Chen was sentenced to life in prison and fined NT$200 million[1] (US$6.13 million) on charges of embezzlement, taking bribes, and money laundering, involving a total of NT$490 million (US$15 million) while in office from 2000-2008.[2] Supporters of former President Chen say the prosecution was politically motivated and point to unusual moves by the current government such as replacing judges who had granted Chen release on his own recognizance with judges who immediately ordered Chen jailed and isolated in mid-trial.[3][4] BBC News noted that while some analysts believe that there is some truth to the claim made by Chen Shui-bian that this case is more of a witch hunt by the current administration aimed at pleasing Beijing, critics of Chen say that the conviction of a former president is a sign of progress for Taiwan's democracy.[107]

Chen, on September 22, proceeded to sue both U.S. President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the grounds that the two failed to enforce a U.S. military occupation of Taiwan, thereby leading to Taiwan's present-day conditions.[108][109] The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces dismissed Chen's petition on October 6.[110]

Political positions

Chen's and the Democratic Progressive Party position on Taiwan's political status is that Taiwan is already an independent, sovereign nation named the Republic of China. This has the implication that a declaration of independence is unnecessary as Taiwan is already independent. This view point, however, is subject to change in each election campaign. At the same time, it also has the implication that the pledge by Chen to preserve the status quo or not change Taiwan's sovereign status would not preclude a declaration of independence but would preclude acceptance of the one China policy.

It is generally accepted that Chen's position on this issue is intended and to a large degree has succeeded in placating his pro-independence supporters without crossing any red lines that could trigger war with the PRC. His supporters see these positions as creative and indicative of a willingness to compromise. However, it is also common among his opponents in Taiwan, as well as among policy makers in mainland China and the pro-PRC United States politicians to see his statements in their own much darker terms. Many among his critics believe that his positions and actions reveal Chen to be an old style Taiwanese politician and promote that his seemingly conciliatory statements are merely a smokescreen to advance a hidden agenda of advancing de-facto Taiwan independence.[citation needed] These suspicions appear to arise from the actions of his KMT predecessor Lee Teng-hui who now readily admits to secretly[citation needed] trying to advance de-facto Taiwan independence during his presidential terms.

President Chen admitted that he leans towards independence but his main position is opposition to adopting the One China principle since it prevents Taiwanese people from being able to decide upon their own future. From this it is speculated that if a large majority of Taiwanese did vote for unification in a referendum without the PRC putting any diplomatic or military pressure on Taiwan during the referendum, Chen would abide by the result.

In an interview in July 2005, Chen explicitly repudiated the position of all former Taiwanese leaders that the Republic of China was still the legitimate government of the whole of China. "The Republic of China on Taiwan and the People's Republic of China on the mainland are two separate countries with divided rule and do not exercise sovereignty over each other," he said. "Under the principle of popular sovereignty and self determination, we consider that the question of whether Taiwan should be united with China should be the decision of the 23 million people of Taiwan."[111]

On February 28, 2006, Chen announced the National Unification Council, set up in 1990, and its guidelines, which had committed Taiwan to unification if China adopts democracy, would "cease to function". He took care to use the phrase "ceased to exist" rather than abolish when he made the announcement because he had promised in 2000 that he would not abolish the council or its guidelines. Newspapers on both sides of the Taiwan strait criticized Chen severely for scrapping the unification council although others reported that Chen may have acted in reaction towards China's Anti Secession Law.[citation needed]

On March 2, 2006 in a stern announcement, Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman of the US state department, said that the US expected the Taiwan authorities to publicly correct the record that there is no distinction between "abolish" and "ceasing activity" and unambiguously affirm that the February 27 announcement did not abolish the National Unification Council and did not change the status quo and that the assurances remain in effect.[112]

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b No byline. "Taiwan ex-leader jailed for life", BBC News, 9/11/2009
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  8. ^ 阿扁抹黑張榮財21年時報周刊 vol.1482, Tue, 18 Jul, 2006
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  112. ^ American Institute in Taiwan - Official Texts

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Huang Ta-chou
Mayor of Taipei
1994–1998
Succeeded by
Ma Ying-jeou
Preceded by
Lee Teng-hui
President of the Republic of China
2000–2008
Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank Hsieh
Chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party
Rule By DPP

2000–2008
Succeeded by
Tsai Ing-wen
Preceded by
Frank Hsieh
Chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party
2002–2005
Succeeded by
Ker Chien-ming
Acting
Preceded by
Yu Shyi-kun
Acting
Chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party
2007–2008
Succeeded by
Frank Hsieh
Acting
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Asma Jahangir
Prize For Freedom
2001
Succeeded by
Helen Suzman

 

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