Taiwan’s former president Chen Shui-bian was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of money laundering and bribery. He claimed his political rivals were persecuting him under pressure from China because of his pro-independence stance but vowed to continue his struggle.
Taiwan's former President Chen Shui-bian now faces corruption charges and up to 30 years in jail
“Long live Taiwan democracy! Long live Taiwan independence!” Chen Shui-bian cried as he left the prosecutor’s office and was led behind bars.
“I am going to Taiwan’s Bastille where I already was 22 years ago,” he said. “They can imprison my body but not my mind.”
Security was high as Chen’s supporters had threatened to stage protests against the Taipei District Court’s decision to remand Chen in custody, saying it thought that the suspected crimes were severe.
Graft, embezzlement, bribery and forgery
The prosecutor’s office has listed five possible charges: graft, seizure of public assets, taking advantage of office to illegally obtain public assets, taking bribes and forgery. It said it would file charges as soon as possible.
A trial is expected to take place before the end of the year. A guilty verdict could carry up to five years in jail per charge.
Former aides of the ex-president as well as members of his family are also under investigation. Chen’s son-in-law was arrested in 2006 for insider trading. He was later convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail.
Trumped up allegations
But the former president, who left office in May after his Democratic Progressive Party had lost the elections, claims the current allegations against him have been trumped up and that he is being persecuted.
“The Chinese Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party see me as their No. 1 prisoner, as I am the biggest obstacle blocking their way to reunification. That’s why Ma Ying-jiu arrested me.”
President Ma has denied these allegations.
Mending ties with Beijing
Since coming to power earlier this year, after winning legislative and presidential elections by a landslide, Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, has tried to improve ties between Beijing and Taipei.
By opening new talks and airline connections with the mainland, it has tried to make up for Chen’s eight years in office during which he continuously rankled China with his calls for Taiwanese independence.
Chen said on Wednesday he would continue the fight: “Our end goal is two states -- Taiwan and China -- one on either side of the Taiwan Strait. Our unchanged dream is a new independent state of Taiwan. We will achieve it. I will struggle for it with everybody.”
China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, has perpetually threatened invasion if the country declares independence. The two sides split in 1949 after a bloody civil war.