DPP fury at 'inhuman' treatment of first lady

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2006, 12:00am

But opposition supporters accuse Chen's wife of staging collapse in court

Lawmakers from Taiwan's ruling party lashed out at the judicial authorities yesterday over what they said was an 'inhuman' decision to make the ailing wife of President Chen Shui-bian stand trial for corruption.

'I feel that the way the court has handled the trial is highly inhuman and the attitude of the judges is very inhuman,' Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus head Ker Chien-ming said.

He was referring to Wu Shu-chen, who was being made to appear in court to answer corruption charges yesterday, despite her delicate condition. The wheelchair-bound first lady, paralysed from the waist down, has been in poor health intermittently for two decades.

Wu, charged by prosecutors last month with embezzling NT$14.8 million (HK$3.53 million) in state funds over the past four years, collapsed an hour after the start of her trial. She was rushed to hospital for treatment for low blood pressure.

'It is hard to describe the bitter feeling after seeing [Wu] collapse,' DPP legislator Lee Chun-yi said.

Another, Lan Mei-chin, a close friend of Wu, said it is unbearable to see the first lady, who used to be a pretty and outgoing woman, suffer physically since being run over by a truck while helping Mr Chen in his campaign for a magistrate's post in Tainan county, southern Taiwan, in 1985.

The first lady's court house collapse sparked a bitter exchange of words between supporters of the DPP and the opposition camps.

Emotional DPP supporters, highly sympathetic to the ailing first lady after her collapse, called television talk shows to hit out at the judges and pan-blue opposition camp for being heartless and cruel.

Opposition supporters fought back, saying the so-called collapse was just a political show to win sympathy and bail Mr Chen out of his political woes.

Prosecutors, who have identified Mr Chen as a 'joint perpetrator' in the alleged embezzlement scandal, have said they had enough evidence to charge the president with corruption but delayed the action due to his immunity from prosecution while in office.

Meanwhile, opposition legislators rejected DPP accusations that the judges were being heartless.

'It is the duty of the judiciary to require any defendant to go to trial regardless of her or his position. It is also the obligation of any defendant to appear in court for trial. How can you say the judges are inhuman because they make defendants appear in court?' asked Kuomintang legislator Kao Shih-po.

He said if the first lady was ailing, she could always apply to take a leave of absence. 'But she chose to appear in court, which showed she respected the judiciary practice. It is therefore improper for others to criticise the judges for being inhuman. After all, they are just doing their jobs,' Mr Kao said.

Other opposition supporters criticised the expensive dress the first lady wore, saying a more humble outfit would have better suited a defendant.

'For ordinary women, if they are defendants, they would be more humble and would never wear anything that looks like they are going to a banquet,' KMT legislator Hsu Hsiao-ping said.

The pale-faced first lady was seen on television wearing a pink Dior jacket and a sparking diamond ring on her way to the courthouse for the trial.

Taiwanese media said the jacket cost about NT$71,500.

The criticism, however, was rejected by DPP lawmakers as being ridiculous. They said that given Wu was the first lady, she should dress to suit her position.