Tsai faces growing pressure to pardon ex-President Chen

A petition calling for President Tsai Ing-wen to pardon her predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, has received overwhelming support from local government chiefs and lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). (The China Post file photo)

A petition calling for President Tsai Ing-wen to pardon her predecessor Chen Shui-bian has received overwhelming support from local government chiefs and lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

All DPP local government chiefs and over 86 percent of DPP lawmakers have signed the petition, according to its organizer, which announced that it will propose for Chen’s pardon at the DPP’s national convention on Sept. 24. The former president is currently on medical parole while serving a 19-year jail sentence for bribery.

While local DPP politicians and lawmakers widely supported the pardon proposal, the president and senior DPP figures are taking a more muted approach. DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming, despite his long-term support of Chen, said that the petition is not the best way to help the former president. The Presidential Office has been mostly quiet on the petition issue. Local Chinese newspaper the United Daily News quoted unnamed President Office sources as saying that even if the DPP approves the proposal at the national convention, pardoning Chen will not become the government’s policy.

The pardon of the former president has been a hot-button issue within the DPP. The former president enjoys wide support among DPP supporters, in particular, those from the “deep green” camp, but remains a divisive figure nationally. Pardoning the former president would energize the DPP base, a plus for local politicians, but it could also damage President Tsai’s appeal to independent voters. Meanwhile, freeing Chen of the restrictions that come along with the medical parole could help re-establish him as a leader in the party

Meanwhile, freeing Chen of the restrictions that come along with the medical parole could help re-establish him as a leader in the party at the expense of Tsai’s authority in the DPP. The “deep green” fraction of the DPP has long expressed disappointment at what they see as Tsai’s inadequate support of its pro-independence stance. The pardon of Chen would give them a figurehead to champion their course. 

The China Post staff