TAIPEI -- Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's former president, was let out of jail on Monday for one month's medical parole after serving six years of a 20-year sentence for graft.
Promising to eradicate corruption, the controversial 64-year-old pro-independence stalwart led the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to victory in 2000, ending a half century of Nationalist Party rule. But the former leader, and his wheelchair-bound wife Wu Shu-chen, evidently succumbed to the temptations of easy money during eight years in office.
Local TV footage showed Chen's son pushing his father out of the prison facility in the central Taiwanese city of Taichung in a wheelchair, with a walking stick in his hand.
Dressed in a green jumper, black down jacket and white cap, the disgraced politician got into a car without saying anything before waving and shaking hands with supporters through a window.
Earlier in the day, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang said the authorities approved parole for the former president after a team of medical experts concluded the ex-president needed treatment outside jail.
"According to the experts, former President Chen is suffering from neurodegeneration," Chen Ming-tang said. "[The ministry] is granting a one-month parole for him to receive better treatment."
The official also said that Chen Shui-bian is suffering from depression, sleep apnea and urinary problems. He said the parole can be extended indefinitely if necessary, but a pardon is not under consideration at present.
The DPP has consistently lobbied for the parole or pardon of the ailing former president on humanitarian grounds, but the administration of Nationalist President Ma Ying-jeou previously shut the door on the requests for legal reasons.
During his eight years in power, Chen promoted national sovereignty and made unsuccessful attempts to have Taiwan rejoin the United Nations, which it was turned out of in the early 1970s. His firebrand rhetoric often incensed Beijing.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has not ruled out force to achieve re-unification. Taiwan split from the China in 1949 when General Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists were overrun on the mainland by Mao Zedong's communist forces and retreated to the island.
Close to the end of his second term, Chen's family and close aides became embroiled in various corruption scandals. Their alleged transgressions triggered the Democratic Progressive Party's defeat by Ma's China-friendly Nationalist Party in the 2008 presidential election. Ma's party, however, suffered a major setback in local elections six weeks ago.
A probe into embezzlement by the former president was launched when Chen left office. He was detained and charged on Nov. 12, 2008. Since then, Chen has had only 17 days out of jail between two spells of detention.
Chen was found guilty on a number of counts of corruption, including receiving 400 million New Taiwan dollars ($12.4 million) relating to a dubious land transaction. Chen's supporters contend that he has been persecuted for his anti-China stance.