Our prolific ex-president

The China Post news staff

If you are led to believe that former President Chen Shui-bian is going to languish in jail in failing health and die from a hunger strike, you are dearly wrong. The 58-year-old “son of Taiwan” is in fact physically healthier and mentally stronger than most of his countrymen, despite the riveting drama in which he was rushed to the hospital twice in an ambulance for emergency treatment after he complained about abdominal discomfort.

Since he was ordered detained by the court on Nov. 12 for his involvement in a multi-billion-US-dollar corruption case now under investigation, Chen Shui-bian has been able to make international headlines and to draw public attention to what he calls “political persecution” by the Ma Ying-jeou administration. Not a single day has passed without his theatrics dominating newspaper’s front page and the TV screen. This week, Chen’s lawyer (and messenger) told the world outside “Taiwan’s Bastille” in suburban Tucheng that his client is becoming suicidal. Cheng Wen-lung, the lawyer, said Chen has written two poems in jail, one to his wife Wu Shu-chen and the other to the people of Taiwan. The poem to the former first lady reads like his last will as it contains lines like: Wishing myself an eternal rest/Never to wake up again. The poem to Wu, published in full by many print media, has become the talk of the town. Legislator Chiu Yi of the Kuomintang faulted the poem for its “poor writing” in style and class. Chiu, a constant critic of Chen, said it was disgusting to read such vulgarities like “sh*t” in a poem by a former president. In fact, however, Chiu missed the point. Both poems are flagrant political statements and accusations of his political foes aimed at absolving himself from criminal prosecution. Both poems portray himself as a hero fighting for Taiwan’s independence and a martyr willing to be crucified. The last six lines of Chen’s parting poem to Wu read like this: “The yokes of rotation of power by parties/Are still laying in scrambled rocks/ The ambitions of national founding/Are still hanging mid-air/If I couldn’t walk out a proud man/I’d rather die on the cross of Taiwan’s history.” His poem to the people of Taiwan, titled “No Name,” is full of political tropes like this: “Taiwan is not without a name/It has too many names/ Taiwan is our name/Our country’s eternal name.” The former president has proven himself a prolific writer besides a consummate politician.