Ex-convict tells stories of ex-president cellmate

The China Post news staff

Ex-President Chen Shui-bian’s former cellmate, who was released on Friday, said prison authorities had asked him to serve as a spy to monitor every move Chen made in the prison, local media reported yesterday.

The Taipei Prison later transferred him away from the cell he shared with the former national leader allegedly because he was getting along too well with Chen, according to the Chinese-language Apple Daily report. The former prisoner, surnamed Wu, was convicted of fraud and has a mild temperament and no political inclinations.

He was chosen by authorities at the Taipei Prison in Taoyuan County’s Gueishan Township to serve as Chen’s cellmate since Chen started his 19-year sentence on Dec. 3, 2010.

Wu, who left the prison around 9 a.m. Friday, identified himself as Chen’s cellmate immediately following his release, the report said. Sharing a total of 40 days with Chen in the same cell until Jan. 10, Wu said the officials of the prison asked him to keep a watchful eye on the ex-president and made timely reports to the officials on Chen’s moves, the report said. The 39-year-old Wu said he found Chen’s blood pressure to be a little high last month. He immediately informed the prison authorities. However, following his report, Wu said he was summoned by a senior official of the prison, who questioned his political affiliation, while accusing him of caring too much for Chen. Wu was later transferred to another cell until his jail term concluded, the report said.

Wu noted that he was getting along well with Chen, as they both often shared food and snacks and even watched hand-held television together in their small-sized 1.2 ping (3.96 sq meter) cell.

He disclosed that the former head of state had complained about the tiny cell. Chen also forced himself to eat all kinds of dishes prepared by the prison.

Chen was afraid that the prison officials would cancel his scheduled meeting with visitors if he did not finish all his meals, Wu said.

Wu further disclosed that Chen was on one occasion allowed to make a telephone call from the prison. He tried to phone his wife Wu Shu-jen, who now leaves in a luxury building in Kaohsiung city.

However, Chen was only given the number of the building’s administrator office instead of the number of Wu’s residence. When he called the office, asking the administrator to transfer the phone to Wu, the administrator cut of the phone for three times since he did not believe the call was actually made by Chen, the report said.

In response to the remarks made by Chen’s former cellmate, a secretary of the Taipei Prison said Wu’s accusations were ungrounded and ridiculous. Chen’s son Chen Chih-chung also refuted the remarks made by the former inmate, saying that Chen would never call the administration office because he has the telephone number of his wife.