Former Taiwan president not welcome at Universiade opening

Chen's health and safety cannot be guaranteed: Taichung Prison

Ex-President Chen Shui-bian's invitation to the Universiade (photo from Chen Chih-chung's Facebook page).

Ex-President Chen Shui-bian's invitation to the Universiade (photo from Chen Chih-chung's Facebook page).

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – When former presidents of Taiwan and ex-mayors of Taipei City gather Saturday for the opening of the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade, one notable absentee will be ex-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

As mayor of the capital from 1994 to 1998 and president from 2000 to 2008, he was among the invitees, but the Taichung Prison on Friday announced it would not give its approval for his attendance.

Chen was sentenced to 20 years in prison on a variety of corruption charges, but let out of prison on medical parole in early 2015 in the light of a host of ailments afflicting him. Since then, he has been living in Kaohsiung with his family, but has had to apply for official approval from Taichung Prison to attend public events.

Earlier this year, he was allowed to travel up to Taipei for a meeting, where he was seen flouting conditions set by the prison administration, such as bans on public speaking and on discussing political issues.

In its rejection of his application to attend the Universiade ceremony, the Taichung Prison argued the event would not bring any benefit to his health, while it might also have security implications. Even though the show was not political in nature, there would not be a specialized medical team at hand, while the presence of large crowds might pose a threat to Chen’s safety, with any protest also affecting his health, the prison administration reasoned.

The former president’s son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), refuted the arguments, saying his father would be accompanied by two members of his medical team. Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was scheduled to speak at the ceremony, security would already be sufficiently tight to guarantee Chen’s safety as well, his son argued.