The detention of the defiant nationalist comes amid a warming trend in cross-strait relations under the current, China-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou. Last week China and Taiwan signed another raft of economic agreements during a visit by a top Chinese negotiator, though the visit was marred by violent anti-China protests here.
While Chen has not been charged with any crime, he is suspected of embezzling millions in public funds while he was president, and laundering that money by wiring it to foreign bank accounts. Two of his key aides and others have been detained without charge in the case, and his wife is also a suspect.
The ex-president has admitted that his wife wired $20 million to foreign bank accounts, but denies any wrongdoing. He claimed in an August press conference that the money was leftover campaign donations, that he didn't know about his wife's massive wire transfers until early this year, and that when he learned of the transfers he decided to donate all the money to further Taiwan's diplomacy.
Taipei Times reports on different reactions from Taiwanese upon hearing news of his arrest. Some loyal to Chen began protesting, whereas others lit firecrackers in celebration. Additionally, the article goes into what could be a more serious political split in Taiwan:
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the current political atmosphere had driven the authorities to take Chen Shui-bian into custody, and that meant the former president would not be subject to a fair and independent investigation.
He said prosecutors had purposely staged the scene showing Chen Shui-bian bound in handcuffs as it would leave the public with a negative impression of all DPP politicians.
Gao said that not a single KMT government official had been detained in handcuffs in the last 10 years, and that included Ma, who was indicted on corruption charges over the use of his special allowance fund during his stint as Taipei mayor.
“Such an action is meant to humiliate the DPP,” Gao said.