New Neighbor

President Chen's new apartment

I went to visit my friends Celia and Jacquelyn yesterday. When I arrived at the building door, I noticed in the glass a security guard from across the street approaching. I'd seen him a few moments earlier and had guessed he was working for the mob. There's a new beautiful apartment across from Celia's in the Taipei Hsin-yi (信義路) area (above) and the mob is often connected to construction. But this guy looked different: he wasn't slouching around, he wasn't wearing a sloppy rayon shirt, he wasn't sporting a diamond-studded Rolex and he wasn't chewing betel nut. He had a neat crew cut, dark shades and a no-nonsense air about him. After checking me out, he went over and, shading his eyes, poked inside the window of a SUV, parked out front of Celia's. I thought: "This guy takes his job seriously."

When I mentioned it to Celia, she explained that former President Chen Shui-bien had just moved into the building across the street, on the 14th floor she figured.

"Well, that's going to take care of your security problem," I quipped. Residents in her building are robbed on a regular basis. Celia just had to have the lock on her Mercedes-Benz fixed after it was jammed up with a screwdriver. And her neighbor, a month back, had his own Benz stolen and held ransom.

"Maybe, but it creeps me out having them 24/7," she answered.

"Have you seen him?" I asked.

"No, but I've seen his car driving in there. You can't see him because the windows are tinted. But it's pretty obvious whose car it is," she said, pointing at the garage entrance (see top pic, with security guard wandering around) from her balcony.

I remember eating at an expensive seafood restaurant on Minsheng East Road, a favorite of Chen's wife, an abalone connoisseur. The boss told me the Chens lived in the vicinity. According to Celia, the Chen's are now collecting expensive homes. This one is really nice and costs a lot of dough. I've often fantasized about having the cash to move in. Celia figures it cost 1.3 NT million per ping.


Anonymous said...

After reading your article "New Neighor", it has just occured a special feeling to my mind. If I were your friend, Celia, I'd feel very ashamed to be a neighbor with president Chen Shui-bien. No matter what price he buys or rents for his new residence, it is not imaginable about a retired president with limited pension to deal with 1.3 million each pin.

Patrick Cowsill said...

A friend's boyfriend worked for a company that sold Italian fashion items here in Taiwan. They approached President Chen about wearing their suits. Chen replied: "I am the son of the a poor Taiwanese fisherman. I wouldn't be comfortable wearing such items. I'm just a simple man with modest tastes." The boyfriend was tempted to write back:

"How about a pair of stylish leather gloves for your son then, so he has something to keep his hands warm while he drives his Jaguar?"

Anonymous said...

Well, to be fair, Chen's spending on his current home is nowhere near Former president Lee and those KMT big names like Lien Chan or Vincent Shiao. Lien's son drives a Porche, twice more expensive than that Jaguar. Shiao's 3 daughters all have a home just as expensive as where Chen's living. Lien and Shiao families have always been civil servants. How did they get all those money? I'm sure Taiwanese civil servants have never been that well paid. It's just pan-Blue media never chase them for answers or expose them, so people don't get surrounded by the image that they are corrupted.

On the other hand, Chen was a very successful lawyer, one of the top earning ones in his days, before he entered politics and his wife came from a wealthy family with a lot of inheritance. I agree that it doesn't look good to let his family spend money the way they do but I have some sympathy - that's his way of compensating what he put them through being a pro-democracy activist/politician under martial law. In those days, they were in danger and he was in prison for just running a megazine talking about democracy. He also constantly feels guilty about his wife's disability cos it happened during a campaign trip.

I don't like him or support him as a politician. Anyone can criticise what he does but it's unfair demonising him or having double standard. His father was a poor farmer, not a fisherman by the way. He's a thrifty guy himself. I know one of his close friends and that's really how he is. He doesn't really indulge in anything and is quite hands on in taking care of his wife when he can but he lets his family enjoy some luxury.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I agree that it doesn't look good to let his family spend money the way they do but I have some sympathy - that's his way of compensating what he put them through being a pro-democracy activist/politician under martial law."

Sophia, I would think a democratic Taiwan with a constitution that guarantees rights to all would be more than enough to compensate for what these people (like anyone else in Taiwan) suffered during martial law. The cars, the furs, the houses and Swiss bank accounts strike me as shallow. Don't they just serve to undercut the Chen legacy?

Thanks for the info about his dad being a farmer. I was unaware of this.