Chen needs care outside jail now, supporters say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2012, 12:00am


The family and supporters of jailed former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian are seeking his release on medical parole or through a pardon.

Citing 61-year-old Chen's failing health and his human rights, they said he needed urgent medical treatment outside prison.

Chen, sentenced to 17 1/2 years in jail for corruption during his time as president between 2000 and 2008, has been serving time in a small cell in a prison outside Taipei since November 2008.

'The hospital authorities have confirmed that the lung condition of the ex-president has been deteriorating, as he not only has suffered from serious chest pain, but also has trouble breathing, as well as asthma,' his office said yesterday.

Chen was taken to hospital on Monday for a two-hour check-up after being diagnosed with a prostate tumour during his previous examination, on March 7.

Chen's son, Chen Chih-chung, said the doctors had told him that in addition to a small tumour measuring 1cm previously found on his father's prostate - which had grown - they had found another, smaller tumour, about 7mm, nearby.

The son said doctors had told him they needed to stop medication controlling tumour growth for 10 days in order to perform a biopsy to determine the nature of the new tumour. He said doctors also told him the former president was suffering from lung and heart problems but the cause had yet to be identified.

The former president's office said yesterday it was worried about him remaining behind bars, given that doctors had not been able to identify the cause of his lung and heart problems. It said environmental factors were probably to blame for his deteriorating health and warned that his life could be at risk if he continued to be denied proper medical care.

There have been growing appeals from his supporters and the pro-independence camp for Chen to be released on medical parole, and several pro-independence groups have launched a signature drive, asking that the government of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou pardon Chen.

Ma has said he will not consider a pardon, given that they are only granted to those who have confessed to their crimes, something the former president has not done.