Taiwan ex-president on hunger strike over arrest

TAIPEI Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:23am EST

Former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian shows his handcuffed hands to the media while being sent from the prosecutors' office to the Taipei District Court November 11, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian shows his handcuffed hands to the media while being sent from the prosecutors' office to the Taipei District Court November 11, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian has gone on a hunger strike to protest against his arrest on corruption and money-laundering allegations that he claims are politically motivated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Chen began his hunger strike on Wednesday, the day he was formally arrested, his lawyer Cheng Wen-long told reporters.

Chen denies the charges. He left office in May due to term limits after eight years in power, during which he often riled Beijing with his pro-independence posturing.

His arrest could stoke political tensions in Taiwan, a vigorous democracy where Chen's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was ousted in legislative and presidential elections.

Chen was replaced by Ma Ying-jeou, the Nationalist Party candidate who has embarked on a campaign to improve ties with China since taking office. He has also sought to cast himself as a victim of score-settling by the Nationalists.

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and pledged to bring the island under its rule, by force if necessary.

Chen decided to launch his strike in protest against how the prosecutor ordered his arrest before conducting a complete investigation, Cheng said.

"He's not eating anything," Cheng said. "I've been urging him, but he still refuses."

Cheng said that, among a list of 10 grievances, Chen also described Taiwan's legal system as "dead" and said he mourned what he described as a regression in Taiwan's democracy.

The prosecutor's office has yet to file formal charges against Chen, but has listed five possible charges: graft, seizure of public assets, taking advantage of office to illegally obtain public assets, taking bribes and forgery.

(Reporting by Roger Tung; writing by Doug Young; Editing by Paul Tait)

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