Taipei, May 1 (CNA) Former Foreign Minister Chen Chien-jen strongly denied on Tuesday accusations by his neighbor that he had sexually assaulted her and said he has turned the matter over to his lawyer. Chen said the allegations leveled against him were false and "are a pack of lies to the point of being preposterous." According to the retired diplomat, he and his family members have been seriously harassed by the woman, who lives in the same apartment building, and her actions led him to file a complaint to the police. Reports said the complaint, which Chen filed on April 20, asked police to stop the woman from harassing him, but stopped short of asking the authorities to press charges against her because she was a neighbor. A number of local media reported that when police investigated the complaint on April 23, the woman countered by accusing the 72-year-old Cheng of sexually assaulting her. The woman, said to be in her mid-50s, told police that as Chen's wife lives in the United States most of the time, she often visited Chen to help him take care of his affairs.
She accused Chen of assaulting her sexually on more than one occasion, with the last incident coming on April 7 when the two returned to Chen's apartment after going out for dinner, according to the Chinese-language Liberty Times. She also alleged that Chen threatened to spread nude photos of her if she refused his sexual advances, the paper reported. Police have turned the case over to the Shilin District Prosecutors Office. An office spokesman said Tuesday it would deal with the matter according to the law. Ke Chun-chung, Chen's lawyer, noted that sexual assault is a serious accusation and that his client is "ready to face it squarely." He also said that information he has collected so far is not consistent with the woman's accusations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would not have any comment on the case. "He is not an active diplomat, so the ministry will not make any comment," ministry spokesman James Chang said. Chen has served as a legislator (1993-1996), foreign minister (November 2000-May 2001), and as Taiwan's representative to the United States (June 2001-May 2004). A career diplomat groomed by the Kuomintang, Chen served as a "caretaker foreign minister" in the Democratic Progressive Party administration of President Chen Shui-bian (who was elected in 2000) to convey Chen's commitment to continuity in Taiwan's foreign policy. The DPP administration later appointed him to serve as the country's representative to the United States. His acceptance of the post was considered by some KMT leaders as a "defection." (By Emmanuel Tseng, Nancy Liu, Liu Shih-yi and Lilian Wu)