It was a dramatic fall from grace for the man once called the “Son of Taiwan.” Former President Chen Shui-bian and First Lady Wu Shu-chen were sentenced to life in prison by the Taipei District Court on Friday, nine years after Chen became the first politician from Taiwan’s long-time opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to take the island’s top post. Chen, 58, and his wife were both charged with embezzlement, bribery, money laundering and forgery and fined $15.3 million for their mishandling of a special state fund and land deals. Chen’s son was also sentenced to two-and-a-half years for money laundering, and his daughter-in-law to one year and eight months.
[…] Chen was the first politician in Taiwan to work his way up from poverty to the country’s highest office. Before entering politics, he was a maritime lawyer who defended Taiwan’s democracy activists. After Taiwan formed its first opposition party, the DPP, in 1986, he was the first DPP politician to be elected president. During his two terms as president from 2000-2008, he promoted greater autonomy from China for the self-ruling island, but never declared de jure independence. In remarks published Thursday in Neo Formosa Weekly, a pro-independence web magazine, Chen asserted that now is the best time to declare independence.
It’s not a very likely prospect. Taiwan’s current President Ma Ying-jeou’s friendly policy towards China has been a big contrast from Chen, who was often deemed a troublemaker. Since coming to office last May, Ma has forged closer economic ties with China through establishing direct transportation and opening up tourism and investment to the Chinese.