Chen Shui-bian, the imprisoned former president of the Republic of China in-exile on Taiwan, is not receiving proper medical care said Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty on May 31. Shetty is visiting the island to review the human rights record of the exiled Republic of China government and granted an interview to the Taipei Times.
Shetty spoke about Chen while discussing ROC prison conditions, including the use of torture. “Besides the issue of torture, reforms should be made in giving prisoners proper medical treatment — for instance, your former president Chen Shui-bian is suffering because he has not received proper treatment,” Shetty said.
Chen Shui-bian is serving a lengthy prison sentence for alleged corruption. Chen was convicted after a controversial no-jury trial. Chen’s trial was marred by perjured testimony, midnight court sessions, courtroom heckling against Chen, an illegal change of judges and an after-hours skit mocking Chen by court personnel.
Several years of prolonged confinement in a tiny punishment cell with no furniture and a no-flush toilet broke Chen’s heath. Chen has been followed by a volunteer medical team of some of the best doctors on the island who have repeatedly complained about inadequate treatment. On May 16, the government’s official diagnosis was finally issued and it confirmed what the volunteer doctors had said all along.
According to the official hospital report, Chen Shui-bain is suffering from neurological degenerative disease, mainly the presentations of fronto-temporal lobe symptoms, severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, and a severe depressive disorder. Chen has attempted suicide by hanging twice since his imprisonment. Chen also has prostate hypertrophy combined with moderate degree urinary dysfunction which causes incontinence.
Chen’s deteriorating neurological condition have left him with a constant hand tremor, loss of memory, and an unsteady gait that has led to several falls. Current ROC President Ma Ying-jeou has rejected repeated calls for medical parole for Chen.
The official Taichung Veterans Hospital report concludes that until now, the responses of Chen’s illnesses to treatments are limited. Overall, his daily activities should be cared by full time caretakers. Chen should not go to any more court proceedings. From a medical point of view, the only effective treatments for the patient are: leaving the current prison conditions and returning home to receive family care, or other plausible ways of management.
Shetty was critical of prison overcrowding in ROC jails, praised the Sunflower Movement, and was critical of police responses to peaceful demonstrations. Shetty said that Amnesty International did not evaluate a government by what they said, but rather what they did.
For further information on Chen Shui-bian’s trial