Political Scandal Figure / President of Taiwan
Place Of Birth:
Kuantien Township, Taiwan
Best Known As:
The former president of Taiwan sentenced to life in prison
Chen is the former president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) who resigned in 2008 and was sentenced to life in prison in 2009. Chen was a populist progressive who rose from a poor family: his "father was a poor sugarcane factory worker and [his] mother was an illiterate day laborer," according to a 2004 story in the Associated Press. Chen studied law and became a maritime lawyer, but was pulled toward politics when he defended political dissidents jailed by Taiwan's martial-law government. He himself served eight months in prison in 1986-87 for criticizing the government. Martial law ended in 1987, and Chen was elected as a member of Taiwan's parliament (1989) and then as mayor of Taipei (1994). A charismatic speaker with a reputation for vigorous action, Chen was criticized by some for being strong-headed and autocratic, and he was defeated in the mayoral race of 1998. He ran for president as a member of the Democratic Progressive Party in 2000, advocating a "new middle way" emphasizing national security and progressive themes. His first term was marked by tensions with China, which firmly disapproved of Taiwan's more independent path under Chen. Chen was re-elected in March of 2004, narrowly defeating Nationalist Party candidate Lien Chan only days after surviving an apparent (and later much-disputed) assassination attempt during a campaign motorcade. Chen served a second full term but left office in May of 2008 under suspicion of corruption. He was arrested that November and charged with embezzlement, money laundering and bribery involving a total of $15 million. In September of 2009 he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.