Winberg CHAI

Chen-Shui-bian, former president of Taiwan, and Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York. Chen’s political career began in 1981 when he was elected to the Taipei City Council, where he served until 1985 as a non-Kuomintang member. Soon Chen became prominent within the Democratic Progressive Party, rising to become president in 2000.

Chen Shui-bian was the second Taiwanese native to be elected president of Taiwan, winning his first term in 2000 and his second term in 2004. (Lee Teng-hui was the first native-born Taiwanese elected president.) Chen’s second term ended in May 2008, and by law he was not permitted to run for a third term.

Chen Shui-bian was born into a poor family in Tainan, Taiwan, on 18 February 1951. He graduated from National Taiwan University, majoring in law, in 1974. He began his law practice in 1976, gaining prominence in 1980 when he defended Annette Lu (his second-term vice president) against charges that she helped organize an antigovernment political protest that became violent. The protest, known as the “Kaohsiung Incident” after the city in which it took place in December 1979, resulted in alleged injuries to 183 police officers, although no protesters were injured. The government, dominated by the Guomindang (Kuomintang, Chinese Nationalist Party), held a trial in March 1980 and sentenced the organizers to jail. Chen himself was convicted of slander and forced to serve a short jail sentence.

Chen’s political career began in 1981 when he was elected to the Taipei City Council, where he served until 1985 as an independent (that is, non-Guomindang) member. Soon Chen became prominent within the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), serving most notably as a member of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee, 1987–1989; DPP Caucus member, 1990–1993; and convener of the DPP’s National Defense Committee, 1992–1994. He was also elected to Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, 1989–1994, during which time he chaired the Formosa Foundation (1990).

In 1994 Chen was elected mayor of Taipei, defeating the Guomindang incumbent Huang Ta-chou. Chen lost his reelection bid in 1998 to Ma Ying-jeou of the Guomindang. However, this loss afforded Chen the time to prepare his run for the presidency in 2000, when he won with less than 40 percent of the votes cast after the Guomindang split into two parties, thus dividing the electorate three ways. Chen was the least known of the candidates and had not been expected to win. In 2004 Chen was reelected president with the help of former President Lee Teng-hui’s Taiwan Solidarity Union, although his razor-thin margin of victory generated some controversy. Just hours before votes were to be cast, Chen and vice presidential candidate Annette Lu were allegedly shot at by a would-be assassin using a “homemade” bullet. Some in the opposition implied that the shooting had been staged to generate sympathy and called for a recount but ultimately were unsuccessful in challenging Chen’s reelection. Later that year, however, Chen’s DPP suffered a setback in the Legislative Yuan elections.

During Chen’s terms as president he faced accusations that his government mismanaged Taiwan’s economy. Even his wife, Wu Shu-chen, and their son-in-law faced legal charges for corruption. Chen Shuibian went on trial in March 2009 on charges of embezzling 104m New Taiwan dollars (£2m) from a special presidential fund, receiving bribes, and laundering money.

Despite these controversies Chen has hoped that history will view him more kindly as the “founding father” of an independent Taiwan for maintaining steadfast, public opposition to Taiwan’s reunification with the Chinese mainland.

Further Reading

Chen Shui-bian. (2000). The Son of Taiwan. (D. Toman, Trans.). Taipei, Taiwan: Taiwan Publishing Co.

Copper, J. F. (2008). Taiwan’s failed president. Asian Affairs: An American Review (34), 4.

Zaqueria, D. S. (Ed.). (2003). Breaking the China-Taiwan impasse. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Source: Chai, Winberg. (2009). CHEN Shui-bian. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 308–309. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

CHEN Shui-bian (Chén Shu?bi?n ???)|Chén Shu?bi?n ??? (CHEN Shui-bian)

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