The media has tormented Chen Hsin-yu. It should be noted that despite the tremendous number of trials of KMT bigwigs over the years, none of their families and family members have been hounded by the media the way Chen Shui-bian's family has been.
All of this has some wondering if Taiwan's media and judiciary are giving Chen a fair shake.
"He hasn't been found guilty yet, but the media wants to tell their audience he is," said Connie Lin, a former TV journalist and now media expert at Hungkuang University in central Taiwan. "It's not healthy for Taiwan's democracy."
To be sure, Chen is deeply unpopular. He's been abandoned even by many of his former supporters. For them, his public admissions are damning enough. Chen has said his wife, Wu Shu-chen, wired some $20 million to the family's overseas accounts, and he apologized for not reporting the money.
But Chen insists the amount was leftover campaign contributions, which he's allowed to keep under Taiwanese law.
Many Taiwanese simply don't buy that. Neither do prosecutors. They charged him and family members with embezzling state funds, accepting bribes and laundering ill-gotten millions abroad.
Chen pleaded not guilty in a pre-trial hearing on Jan. 19, and remains in detention. The next court date is Feb. 24.
Meanwhile, Wu, also a suspect, has failed to show up for 17 court appearances, claiming poor health. That excuse doesn't sit well with most Taiwanese. This week her own lawyer quit, a week before she's due in court again.
The scandal has sucked in Chen's children. His son, Chen Chih-chung, recently admitted wrongdoing in connection with sending funds abroad, and has turned state's witness against his own parents.
Chen's daughter, Chen Hsin-yu, has not been charged. But the media has mercilessly badgered her nonetheless. She's become something of a laughing-stock in Taiwan for her screeching tantrums, directed at TV reporters who shadow her every move.
Also in the Chen case news, there were more guilty pleas.
Tsai Ming-che and Tsai Ming-chieh yesterday pleaded guilty to helping the former First Family, the Ah-Bian family, launder money by serving as “white gloves”, i.e., intermediaries in criminal acts. The Tsais are brothers of former First Lady Wu Shu-jen’s college classmate, Tsai Mei-li. After pleading guilty, Tsai Ming-chieh’s attorney requested plea bargaining. After the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Prosecutor General’s Office consults with the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, if an agreement can be reached, the prosecutors may enter into plea bargaining with Tsai Ming-chieh and his defense counsel.The noose tightens....
Tsai was somber yesterday when he requested plea bargaining. He said that he and his three siblings had all been involved in the cases. In addition, as his sister Tsai Mei-li was quite ill, he said that hoped that at least one family member could avoid going to prison so as to help the other members to deal with family affairs. Consequently, he said that he had requested plea bargaining.