Chen Shui-bian makes first public speech after prison release

Chen Shui-bian makes first public speech after prison release
Former President Chen Shui-bian makes his way to the opening of his daughter's dental clinic in Tainan City on Saturday, Dec. 24.
PHOTO: The China Post/CNA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former President Chen Shui-bian Saturday delivered public remarks for the first time since his release from prison on medical parole.

Chen - who was handed a 20-year sentence for a string of corruption charges shortly after leaving office in 2008 - made a short speech at the opening of his daughter's dental clinic in Tainan.

The former president was joined by Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (賴清德), as well as others, as he cut the ribbon to open the clinic.

Questions had been raised over Chen's appearance at the event, as the former president is barred from giving public speeches of a political nature or at political events as part of the conditions of his release.

Taichung Prison officials stated after the event that whether Chen had violated conditions of his medical parole would be "evaluated."

Despite the opening of his daughter's clinic being an ostensibly apolitical event, the ceremony attracted hundreds of Chen's supporters who chanted "Go! Go! Go!, President A-bian."

The majority of the crowd appeared to be there to show their support for the former Democratic Progressive Party leader, but Chen eschewed political topics, using the opportunity to express his pride in his daughter's achievements and to describe how his time in prison had "brought them closer together."

Chen said he had "talked with his daughter more often than any other time over the past three decades" during his imprisonment, describing how his daughter, Hsing-yu, would visit him and bring him snacks from Tainan every Monday.

He said being a member of a first family was "tough," and that his family had "suffered" because of his participation in politics.

The former president thanked his daughter for giving him "the opportunity to allow him to speak in public for the first time in eight years, while stressing that he was making "opening remarks," and "not a speech."

While Chen touched on politics, it was only to thank former advisory and successor as president Ma Ying Jeou for imprisoning him, saying it had allowed him to "rediscover my love for my family."

He also thanked current President Tsai Ing-wen for allowing him to attend a private gathering with his supporters in Taipei in June and a concert in Kaohsiung in October.

Chen described how he had been conflicted over whether his appearance would violate the terms of his parole, before deciding that as the opening of the clinic "was not a political event, I should be ok."

He began serving his sentence on Nov. 11, 2010, but was detained for nearly two years prior to that while prosecutors were investigating and prosecuting cases against him.


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