by Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos, Chief Visionary Founder & Owner
June 3, 2013 (TSR) – Former President Chen Shui-bian tried to hang himself Sunday night in a bathroom at Taichung prison in central Taiwan to protest his 2009 corruption conviction according to Taipei’s Justice Ministry’s Agency of Corrections statement issued on Monday.
The 62-year-old former leader, who is currently serving a 20-year jail term for corruption and money laundering during his 2000-2008 presidential tenure, is “apparently disillusioned over snags in his bid to rejoin his former party and the Legislature’s move to absolve politicians of abuses of taxpayer funds”, the Ministry of Justice statement said.
Last week, Chen announced he was applying for readmission to the Democratic Progressive Party, the main opposition grouping, which he led during his presidency.
He left the party of his own volition after leaving the presidency in 2008.
Chen tried to hang himself with three towels tied together at a faucet of a bathroom sink at 9 p.m. on June 2, 90 centimeters off the ground in a corner of his bathroom that was out of view of surveillance cameras.
Realizing that something was wrong, prison guards went to check on Chen and stopped him from going through with his plan and his condition is stable, the Corrections Agency said.
According to the statement, Chen told prison staff he wanted to take his life to show his extreme dissatisfaction over his problems in trying to rejoin the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)and a revision to the Audit Act rammed through the Legislature on May 31.
The revision would exempt research grants given by the government to professors and special allowances for elected officials from being audited.
Because it is retroactive, it would absolve ex-lawmaker Yen Chin-piao, who is serving a three and half year jail term for using public funds to visit hostess bars and KTV lounges while serving as Taichung County speaker in 1999 and 2000.
“If visiting hostess bars can be absolved, why can’t I be absolved for using my state affairs fund for diplomacy,” Chen was quoted as saying by the agency.
After serving his presidential tenure, Chen and his wife were sentenced in 2009 to life in prison for misuse of public funds and other charges including corruption and inducing false evidence, Bloomberg reported.
The punishment was reduced on appeal and Chen was moved to the prison hospital in April to treat ailments including depression, a sleep disorder and Parkinson’s disease, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.
The former president has been indicted for embezzling his state affairs fund, a discretionary fund given to presidents, but the case is still being tried.
Following the incident, Taichung Prison arranged for Chen to meet with a psychologist and gave him the chance to plant seeds in a garden, which improved his mental state, the agency said.
President Ma Ying-jeou has asked the Ministry of Justice to pay attention to the personal safety and the physical and mental condition of the former president, according to Presidential Office spokeswoman Garfie Li.
A spokeswoman for Chen’s private medical team, meanwhile, said they had been worried about Chen’s mental state.
Also, Chen has been receiving medical treatment in recent months for a series of health problems, including a heart condition.
His office has been pressing for his release on medical parole, citing his poor health and his depressed state of mind.
Chen Chao-chi said the former president has always felt that he was wronged in the state affairs fund case, and it was another blow to him to see somebody getting different treatment.
As for the former president’s application to rejoin the party, Legislator Ker Chien-ming said the issue would be solved next week. The party has not formally responded to Chen’s application, but current party leaders have made it clear they fear that his readmission could harm their attempts to cleanse the party of the aura of corruption.
Ker made the comment after he and fellow DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai visited the former president at Taichung Prison Monday afternoon.
Chen’s 2000 election ended more than half a century of rule by the Kuomintang, which subsequently regained power as his Democratic Progressive Party was tarnished by the corruption allegations.
During his tenure, Chen earned China’s wrath by trying to assert the island’s sovereignty, dropping the word “China” from the names of state-owned companies and bidding to join the United Nations under the name of Taiwan. His successor, Ma Ying-jeou, reversed those moves, allowing direct flights and easing restrictions on mainland investment.