Focus on urgent issues
William Cox’s letter (Nov. 26, page 8) is obviously well meant, but illustrates several major problems with foreigners commenting on former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) medical issues. Such foreigners frequently err, as Cox does.
For example, Chen has a desk and does not write on the floor. Errors like that enable opponents to discredit pro-Chen foreigners as well-meaning fools who know little about Taiwan. Cox also appears to be unaware that prisoners in Taiwan are generally treated the same way as Chen is, and that, in fact, his incarceration is good by Taiwanese standards. For example, he was sent to one of the best hospitals in the nation for treatment, a privilege no ordinary prisoner would have received.
Few Taiwanese share this strange desire to help Chen. Most see him as, at best, a traitor to the pro-Taiwan cause; at worst, as a thief. Chen’s son recently admitted that their homes in the US were purchased with campaign funds. While converting campaign funds to personal use is legal, that money belongs to the Democratic Progressive Party on behalf of all people who worked to put him in power, as well as those murdered during the Martial Law era. Yes, Chen is a political prisoner. However, his incarceration might have been avoided had Chen behaved in a modest and ethical manner.
The truth is that the issues surrounding Chen’s detention are a minor issue not worth well-meaning outsiders’ time. Foreigners who want to help Taiwan should be focusing on more urgent issues that affect many lives, such as the forced conversion of farmland to industrial parks, the environment, carbon dioxide emissions, traffic, official corruption, human trafficking, the north-south divide, the plight of foreign workers, farmers, fisheries, urban livability, deepening democratization and so on.
If Chen comes up, it should only be as a minor poster boy for an urgently needed general program of prison reform. Taiwan-supporting foreigners, please stop wasting your time with a man who abused and betrayed your trust and whose case will merely divert your energy and impair your credibility as a speaker in Taiwan.
The last sentence pretty much encapsulates how I see Chen, which is why I almost never discuss him on this blog anymore.
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