Embattled Chen prepares for possibility of jail

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 November, 2008, 12:00am

Former Taiwanese president portrays himself as victim of persecution

The minute Chen Shui-bian stepped out of his office to face prosecutors' questioning yesterday, the scandal-plagued former Taiwanese president was prepared for the possibility that he would go to jail.

In an effort to shift the attention from a string of corruption scandals surrounding him, Mr Chen portrayed himself as a martyr and said the investigations and interrogations were politically motivated.

'Because [Taiwanese President] Ma Ying-jeou wants to placate the Chinese communists, he works with the communists in order to put me in jail and quell their anger,' Mr Chen said in a brief statement before responding to a subpoena from prosecutors.

He was referring to the recent mobbing of top mainland negotiator Chen Yunlin by pro- independence supporters during a historic five-day visit to Taipei last week.

The mainland official, who attended a banquet hosted by Kuomintang chairman Wu Poh-hsiung, was trapped inside a hotel for more than eight hours when a violent protest broke out outside.

Mr Chen, the former president, is being investigated over his alleged role in embezzling NT$14.8 million (HK$3.5 million) in secret diplomatic funds, taking bribes from local businessmen and laundering US$21 million in funds abroad.

He was summoned for questioning for the fifth time by prosecutors of the special investigation taskforce under the Supreme Prosecutors' Office yesterday. On Monday night, he said he would be arrested.

Calling the investigations 'an obvious result of political persecution' by Mr Ma of the ruling KMT, Mr Chen, who supports independence, said: 'The KMT and the Chinese Communist Party see me as their No1 enemy as I am the biggest stone blocking their way to a cross-strait union.'

He said he was honoured and proud to play the role of being a 'sacrifice of political persecution' by Mr Ma, who has sought to mend fences with the mainland since he took office in May.

Predicting that he would be arrested and sent to the 'Bastille' - the prison where revolutionaries were detained in France in the 18th century - Mr Chen said: 'You can lock me up in the jail, but you can never imprison my spirit.'

He said that regardless of how fortified the 'Bastille' was, it was eventually sacked.

'Democracy and freedom, as well as the independent sovereignty of Taiwan, can never be locked up by the Bastille,' he said.

In closing his speech before his interrogation, he shouted: 'Long live Taiwanese democracy, long live Taiwanese independence,' slogans he had often used to intensify support from pro-independence advocates.

Hundreds of his supporters shouted 'injustice' and 'down with Ma Ying-jeou' along the barbed wire barricades near the taskforce's office where Mr Chen was to undergo questioning.

Authorities deployed 3,000 police officers and sealed off several roads leading to the office to prevent protesters from running wild.

Despite advice that he use a vehicle to go to the office, Mr Chen chose to walk from his office towards that of the taskforce, prompting police to form several rows to protect him from being attacked by opponents.

He shook hands with all the workers in his office, bidding them farewell and saying he would miss them in jail.

If detained, Mr Chen would still enjoy his annual pension and allowances of NT$11.25 million until after any conviction is upheld by the Supreme Court.

In a spin

Chen Shui-bian?s trials and tribulations since leaving office this year

May 20

An hour after leaving office and losing presidential immunity, Chen ordered not to leave Taiwan by prosecutors probing allegations of graft and abuse of power

Aug 6

After President Ma Yingjeou declassifies documents for use in investigation, Chen?s lawyers file lawsuit saying move is politically motivated

Aug 14

Chen admits previous election campaigns had misstated election finance expenses, and forwarded leftover funds to overseas accounts

Aug 15

Chen announces that he and wife Wu Shu-chen will leave Democratic Progressive Party

Aug 16

Prosecutors interrogate Wu about overseas money transfers

Aug 17

Investigators seize documents from Chen?s home and office

Aug 25

Chen's son, Chen Chih-chung, and daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching, return to Taiwan on the orders of prosecutors for questioning over roles in US$21 million money laundering case

Sep 2

Yeh Sheng-mao, former Investigation Bureau director, admits tipping off Chen about international probe into money laundering allegations

Sep 25

Taiwanese prosecutors conduct second search of Chen's home and office

Oct 6

Yeh detained

Oct 31

Chiou I-jen arrested for alleged embezzlement while secretary general of National Security Council

Nov 11

Chen questioned by prosecutors