TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A review committee on Wednesday cleared the way for jailed former President Chen Shui-bian to rejoin the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, its convener said.
Chen officially announced his withdrawal from the party in late 2008 as he became caught up in scandal allegations after leaving office. He was later sentenced to 20 years in prison on corruption charges and is now staying at the Taichung Prison’s Pei Te Hospital due to his precarious health.
He officially submitted a request to rejoin the DPP last May 29. Amid conflicting opinions about the likelihood of his return, the opposition party referred his case to a review committee. In its latest meeting Wednesday, the body agreed to approve Chen’s application, its convener, DPP lawmaker Kuan Bi-ling, told reporters.
Chen was the first opposition mayor of Taipei City from 1994 to 1998 and ended more than 50 years in power for the Kuomintang when he won the 2000 presidential election. He was re-elected by a razor-thin majority in 2004 after an attempt on his life.
The DPP committee was initially unable to achieve a consensus about the decision to readmit Chen, so instead, a vote was held which resulted in the approval of his application, reports said.
The former president was reportedly angry that some party leaders wanted to postpone a decision on his application until late August, or more than five years after he left the DPP. Since members who are expelled, have to wait five years before they can rejoin, the delay would make it look like he was expelled even though he chose to leave the party himself, reports said.
As a result, Chen at one point reportedly threatened to form a separate political party if his application to rejoin was delayed.
DPP leaders have supported the campaign to safeguard the former president’s human rights and medical rights, including his wish to obtain medical parole, but they have also insisted this support was not reliant on him being a party member or not.
The review committee reportedly said it had considered Chen’s status as a victim of a severe depression and his medical and humanitarian needs. In addition, the committee noted that the party leadership initially helped him launch his application, with its Central Standing Committee asking legislative caucus leader Ker Chien-ming to help Chen file the necessary documents. The party could not first help him apply and then reject him, the committee reportedly noted.