Former Taiwan vice-president hospitalised after hunger strike

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Former vice-president Annette Lu was hospitalized yesterday, following a prolonged hunger strike that lasted over 81 hours.

Lu began her fast in front of the plaza of the National Taiwan Museum, aiming to appeal to President Ma Ying-jeou's administration to approve former president Chen Shui-bian's medical parole.

Following the former president's reported early release and possible New Year reunion with his family, Lu left for Taichung Prison hoping to greet the former president.

After Chen's paperwork was reportedly delayed as a result of traffic, Lu had to calm the angry supporters of the former president, as Chen would have a long wait due to the New Year holiday.

Lu told the angry supporters that she should have tried harder and later returned to her hunger strike in front of the museum after Chen remained incarcerated.

Though Lu had said on Dec 31 that she would be attending the flag-raising ceremony in front of the Presidential Office yesterday, the medical team of the former vice-president instead admitted her into the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) early yesterday morning.

Taiwan Society North President Chang Yeh-Sen said that Lu would probably have to remain in the hospital for observation for three to four days.

Chang, who is also a doctor, said that Lu already suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, and is also a survivor of thyroid cancer.

Following a four-day hunger strike, Lu's blood-sugar levels were very low, while her blood pressure spiked to a dangerously high level, resulting in listlessness, hand tremors, cold sweats, palpitations and ataxia.

Chang went on to say that Lu began to develop early symptoms three hours into her return to protest in Taipei on Dec 31.

After experiencing leg cramps and stomach aches, doctors immediately admitted Lu into NTUH where her bilirubin level spiked.

After receiving intravenous therapy, Lu stated that she will be following her doctors' recommendations to end her hunger strike, and that her fellow protesters will also return home today for the sake of their health.

Doctors have said that more examinations will be conducted in the future to determine whether Lu's abdominal pain is a result of pancreas or gallbladder inflammation caused by her fast.

In Lu's official press release, the former vice-president said that she will return to Taichung Prison next Monday, and will defiantly leave with the former president on her return trip.