Chen rails against 'persecution'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2012, 12:00am


Taiwan's jailed former president Chen Shui-bian used a publicly broadcast eulogy he made at a family prayer service for his late mother-in-law yesterday to again claim he had been politically persecuted.

In a widely watched appearance in the southern city of Tainan, Chen crawled into the mourning hall of a funeral parlour where a shrine to his mother-in-law, who died last week, was erected.

'Please forgive me for not being filial by not seeing you at the hospital before you passed away,' Chen said. In his 18-minute address, Chen said his imprisonment was politically motivated and that he was not corrupt.

'When I was president in 2000, [my daughter Wu Shu-jen] asked me to cut in half my [monthly] salary, from NT$800,000 (HK$210,000), because of the financial difficulty in Taiwan at that time,' he said.

Chen added that the family had never done anything wrong to the Taiwanese people and instead had notable achievements, including important construction projects like the high-speed railway, the Snow Mountain tunnel and Taipei 101, one of the world's tallest buildings.

He believed that over time the 'court of conscience' of the people would uphold justice to release him from the 'cross of Taiwan', which he was bearing.

Chen said it was because of his wife's family background that she 'encouraged me to be brave and insist on Taiwanese sovereignty during my eight years' of presidency between 2000 and 2008.

Chen, allowed to be free of handcuffs and shackles after being granted a special release by Taiwan's prison authorities to attend the Taoist service, expressed gratitude to his mother-in-law, Wu Wang-hsia, 85, for supporting his relationship with her daughter, Wu Shu-chen, who, he said, had inherited her sense of justice and 'Taiwan consciousness'. Chen was escorted by prison officers and police to the funeral parlour, where about 200 supporters waved banners and chanted 'injustice' and 'A-bian [his nickname] is innocent' as the minibus carrying him arrived. For security reasons, prison authorities did not approve Chen's request to attend a public funeral for his mother-in-law.

Some supporters condemned mainland-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou for jailing Chen to please Beijing, which was infuriated by Chen's repeated campaigning for Taiwanese independence. Chen and his wife were sentenced to 171/2 years in jail for taking bribes, in a final conviction by the Supreme Court in 2010.

Wheelchair bound Wu, paralysed from the waist down, has been granted permission to serve her term at home due to her feeble health. However, the pair still face other corruption trials.

Chen and family members have been accused in a complex network of cases, with allegations they sent political donations and secret diplomatic funds abroad, laundered millions of US dollars and took kickbacks on government contracts.

He had a brief family reunion with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and daughter, all of whom embraced in a teary reunion. He was also allowed to see his mother, who had been waiting outside the funeral parlour in cold drizzle.

According to Taiwanese tradition, an elderly mother is not supposed to take part in the prayer service for the mother-in-law of her son.