Taiwan's ex-president's son levels charges of persecution

Ex-President's Chen Shui-bian's son Chen Chih-chung yesterday called himself a victim of "political persecution" following a announcement the day before made by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) that he would be relieved of duty as a Kaohsiung councilor after the Supreme Court sentenced him to three months in jail for perjury.

"The ruling that is apparently politically motivated could not be accepted by me, my supporters and all Taiwanese people," said Chen yesterday in a press conference held in Kaohsiung.

Saying that he was deeply saddened with the ruling, Chen noted that the Executive Yuan's swift decision to strip him of his job as a Kaohsiung City councilor is part of the ruling administration's plan to hunt his family down.

Chen noted that he previously heard rumors that he could not keep his councilor seat for more than three months, adding that the cabinet's decision only confirms these rumors.

Chen also said the Supreme Court's upholding of his three-month sentence, which is not commuted to a fine or to a suspended sentence, is unreasonable and obviously politically motivated.

Chen believed he should be able to retain his job as he was legally entitled to do community service in exchange for the jail term.

But the cabinet, he said, immediately terminated him.

The Executive Yuan decided to remove him from his councilor post, citing the Local Government Law, which states that a city councilor must be stripped of his or her post when the court finds the councilor guilty of a criminal charge, Chen said.

But Chen said the law itself is full of loopholes and should be amended.

Chen said, however, he will remain strong even facing these obstacles.

In response to supporters asking that he or his wife Huang Jui-Ching run in January legislative elections, Chen said he would have first to discuss it with his father, who is currently incarcerated.

Chen was found guilty of perjury in connection with a state affairs fund case in which his father and mother were charged with using questionable invoices to claim reimbursement from the fund.

There would be no need for a by-election to fill the vacancy as the Local Government Act stipulates that a vacancy left by a special municipality councilor does not need to be filled if the number of the vacancies is less than 50 percent of the total number of city councilors in the city.

MOI's Clarification

In response to Chen's accusations of a political witch hunt, the MOI yesterday said the ruling is not politically motivated or targeted at Chen only.

There are other similar cases in which city councilors are forced to abandon their seats after they were found guilty of criminal charges.

"More than a dozen city councilors, including those in New Taipei City and Tainan, have been asked to leave their posts so far this year," said MOI's Department of Civil Affairs Director Huang Li-hsin in a press conference.

Huang also said it is highly unlikely for Chen to regain his councillorship even if he files for appeal or complains to related authorities.

But she noted that Chen could run for legislator if he finishes his three-month-sentence by late November, which is the time for legislative candidates to officially register to join the campaign.

Meanwhile, the Government Information Office Philip Yang said the government respects judicial independence and the Executive Yuan will notify the Kaohsiung City Council and Chen himself about his dismissal from his councilor seat upon receiving the written verdict from the court.