Chen Shui-bian: From Son of Taiwan to Scourge of Taiwan
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 4, 2009
On September 27, 2001, Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian, stood on a red carpet, holding daughter Chen Hsing-yu's hand. He turned to his new son-in-law Chao Chien-ming and joked, "I am peacefully transferring my daughter to you. But will peace prevail in this marriage?" On June 27, 2007, as a result of Chao Chien-ming's involvement in the Taiwan Development Corporation scandal, Chen Hsing-yu denounced her father-in-law, saying "Someone of his ilk is better off dead!" This shocking remark from a daughter-in-law gave the outside world a glimpse into the turmoil brewing within the First Family.
This exclusive wedding banquet, one year into President Chen Shui-bian's first term, was his first report card, and revealed the extent of collusion between government and business interests within his administration. The heads of all five branches of government were present. So was Taiwan's most powerful family, the Koo family, including the late Koo Chen-fu and his wife, CITIC Group chairman Jeffrey Koo and his wife; Fubon Financial Holding chairman Tsai Min-chung and his wife; future High Speed Rail chairman Nita Ing; Taishin Financial Holding Co. chairman Wu-liang and his wife; Sheraton Hotel chairman Tsai Chen-yang and his wife; former China Development Corporation General Manager Wu Ting-wu; Taiwan Mobile chairman Sun Tao-chung, future Mega Holdings Chairman Cheng Shen-chi. President Lee Teng-hui, who seldom made public speeches at weddings, said Chen Shui-bian "genuinely loves Taiwan."
On June 18, 2005, another wedding jumpstarted Chen Shui-bian's money-laundering operations. Although Chen claimed that his son Chen Chih-chung and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching would not accept either wedding presents or gifts of cash, the very same political and business elites were in attendance. Hundreds of millions in tribute were presented to the couple. They even received a Tiffany diamond ring, which led to a succession of aftershocks. By then Chen Shui-bian was well into his second term. All taboos had been lifted. Riches and power were his for the taking. His son and daughter were married. Publicly and privately, the Chen family business was flourishing. But behind the facade of domestic tranquility and prosperity was the ugly face of insatiable greed, quietly sowing the seeds for future disaster, when it would be every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.
On August 24, 2008, Chen Chih-chung and Huang Jui-ching still insisted they knew nothing about the money-laundering scandal. They insisted they were merely the heads of dummy accounts, that they were "merely following orders." Five months later, outside accomplices in the money-laundering case pleaded guilty one after the other. Realizing the jig was up, this young couple pled guilty as well, offered a public apology, and expressed a willingness to return 1.8 billion NT in overseas funds. Although many people doubt the amount of money the Chen family has laundered stops there, this was the first time a member of the Chen Shui-bian family explicitly admitted the Chen family had squirreled away assets throughout the world. The confession sent shockwaves through the nation. Huang Jui-ching told the media she was worried. If she and her husband were imprisoned, what would happen to their daughter? For the sake of their children, Huang Jui-ching pleaded guilty, and asked her mother-in-law for forgiveness.
Meanwhile, the only member of the Chen family not barred from leaving the country as a result of the money-laundering case was Chen Hsing-yu. In early February 2009, she went to New York to take an exam. Whether the purpose of the exam was advanced studies or preparation for professional practice in the United States, leaving the country now appeared to be the only choice for Chen Hsing-yu, who has had her fill of the Chen family corruption and money-laundering scandal. The stakes in the case have rapidly escalated. The sum of money laundered has rapidly increased. Chen Shui-bian and Wu Shu-chen have begun cutting ties to their partners in crime. Former political comrades and business tycoons have chosen to break off relations with Chen Shui-bian. We have now arrived at the final layer. Their own children and their own legal defense team.
Chen Shui-bian, writing from within in the detention center, has long maintained that he is a martyr, heroically bearing Taiwan's cross. He maintains he has been grievously wronged, and has unfulfilled political ambitions. Outside the detention center, people close to Chen and distant from Chen are actively or passively deserting Chen Shui-bian's little kingdom. When asked about Chen Shui-bian's dream of directing the DPP's upcoming election campaign, comrades hem and haw, saying "Thank you for asking." They can no longer even be termed "comrades." After all, Chen Shui-bian has already resigned from the party. One day key members of this kleptocracy will have to account for their behavior. The public may well boo and hiss as these once powerful players scramble to point fingers at each other, in the hope of saving themselves. The public may well note that in the end, these players could not fool all of the people all of the time. The truth would eventually come out. When their complicity was exposed, the dark side of human nature would prevail. When push came to shove, even the sons and daughters of the Chen family would give priority to their own interests.
At the zenith of his power, political superstar Chen Shui-bian radiated blinding charisma, causing those whom he favored to ignore right and wrong, and shamelessly cover for the Chen crime family's mind-boggling greed. When special interests uniformly tilted toward the Chen Shui-bian crime family, they assumed their good fortune would stretch into eternity, and their glory would endure forever. Their dream lasted eight years. The Chen dynasty now faces Huang Jui-ching's defection. Former comrades now maintain a safe distance. The Son of Taiwan has become the Scourge of Taiwan. Who knew it would come to this? The Rise and Fall of Chen Shui-bian has become Taiwan's most sobering morality tale. There is no such thing a party that goes on forever. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Whether riches or power, it's easy come, easy go. Squander them and one day the bill will come due. Wealth squandered may sometimes be recouped. But friendships lost can seldom be regained.