Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Sunday, 16 November 2008

Taiwanese ex-leader in hospital

Taiwanese police hold back Chen supporters outside the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in Panchiao
Police formed a human chain around the hospital in Panchiao

The jailed former president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, has been brought to hospital and put on a drip, days after beginning a protest hunger strike.

Police cordoned off the clinic close to his remand prison in the capital Taipei to keep back supporters angered by his arrest without charge for corruption.

A doctor said Mr Chen seemed to be suffering from dehydration and would be kept overnight for treatment and tests.

Earlier, Taiwanese media said there were plans to force-feed the ex-leader.

Mr Chen began his fast on Wednesday, hours after being arrested, saying the case against him was politically motivated.

He is accused of money-laundering and abusing a special presidential fund and could face up to four months in detention without charge to prevent him contacting other suspects.

Mr Chen left office in May after eight years in power, during which he championed Taiwanese independence.

His successor, Ma Ying-jeou, has been forging closer ties with Beijing to the anger of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the ruling party when Mr Chen was president.

Intravenous drip

Doctor Tsai Kuang-chao at the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in Panchiao told reporters:

Chen Shui-bian raises his handcuffed hands after being detained on Tuesday
Mr Chen is being held without charge pending further investigations

"We found he was apparently dehydrated... therefore, we decided to give him an intravenous drip.

"His heart beat was slightly faster than normal, otherwise, his overall condition is okay."

The deputy warden at the Tucheng detention centre, Li Ta-chu, earlier confirmed that as of Sunday morning Mr Chen had still been refusing to eat.

He was feeling "tightness in his chest and general soreness, with his blood pressure and blood sugar levels at the edge of normal ranges", the official was quoted as saying by Taiwan's Central News Agency.

The detention centre authorities, he added, were "planning, after consulting his doctors, to have the former president sent to the nearby Far Eastern Memorial Hospital for forced nutrition injections", he added.

Reporters later witnessed Mr Chen being brought to the hospital under heavy security.

Corruption allegations

The former president and his family have been mired in corruption allegations since 2006, when his son-in-law was charged with insider trading on the stock market and then jailed for seven years.

Mr Chen is under investigation for allegedly embezzling 14.8m Taiwanese dollars (US$480,500, 306,000) from the government.

The charges damaged the reputation of the DPP, observers say, but the party has used his arrest to step up criticism of the ruling Nationalists' China policy.

One DPP parliamentarian, Kao Chih-peng, said he was worried about Mr Chen's health.

The hunger strike, he told AFP news agency, was "the former president's silent protest [against] the political persecution by the Kuomintang [Nationalist] government".

Taiwan has been ruled separately since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. The defeated Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan to create a self-governing entity.

But Beijing sees the island as a breakaway province which should be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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