Did Chen snack his way through a hunger strike?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 January, 2009, 12:00am

He stands accused of corruption and has been put behind bars pending trial lest he attempt to collude with witnesses.

Now former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian's 16-day prison hunger strike has been revealed as a sham.

A security camera in his cell recorded him nibbling on snacks at night, a Taiwanese magazine reports.

Chen ate peanuts, crackers and chocolates while incarcerated at a suburban Taipei jail, Times Weekly said.

Chen said on November 12 that he had begun a hunger strike in protest at the 'political persecution' he said the case against him represented.

Four days later, he was taken to hospital suffering from an irregular heartbeat. After accepting glucose and saline injections, Chen said he had resumed his hunger strike upon his return to the jail on November 18.

He announced the end of the protest on November 27, when he ate a small bowl of porridge.

During those 10 days, the former president seemed to be oozing with creativity, writing a love poem dedicated to his wife, Wu Shu-chen, and a pro-independence verse, and penning a prison diary.

All the while, he was reported to have rejected pleas by family members and doctors to end his fast.

Chen, 58, attributed his high productivity to his 'exceptional willpower'. But the weekly wrote: 'It was snacks that powered him on.'

A prison official told the magazine that snacks put in Chen's cell, most of them contributed by supporters, had been opened, touched and partially consumed.

Chen was officially indicted on December 12 and released. The Taipei District Court revoked his release last Tuesday.

This time around, 'Inmate 2185' spent more than NT$1,000 (HK$235) on milk candies, canned eel, mineral water and stationery.

Chen has apparently been busy writing letters to, among others, his successor Ma Ying-jeou and President Hu Jintao .