New Taiwan VP Devout Catholic

by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  January 20, 2016   

Chen Chien-Jen consulted with his archbishop before running for office

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TAIWAN ( - Chen Chien-jen has been elected the first Catholic vice president of Taiwan.

The country's elections last week saw one of the most diverse mix of politicians of any country. The president-elect is the first female, pro-same-sex marriage president of the country. Among those elected to the legislature were the frontman of a heavy metal band, a researcher, the sister of a soldier who died in military training, a former TV news anchor and aboriginal rights advocate, and a professor of political science.

Added to the mix is Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan's minister of health from 2003 to 2005, when SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) raged through the country. Owing to political pressure on the World Health Organization from China, without any outside help, he established effective quarantining and screening procedures, severely limiting the impact of the epidemic, which ended up killing nearly 800 in the island nation.

A year later he entered politics and was made minister of the National Science Council (now the Ministry of Science and Technology) from 2006 to 2008. After that, Chen retired from public life and focused on his faith, attending Mass daily with his wife. He also became vice president of the leading research university in Taiwan.

When he was asked to run on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket late last year, he said his wife and daughter prayed for him to properly discern God's will.

He also consulted Abp. John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei, who advised him to run, saying, "[S]ince the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the Catholic Church encourages the faithful to engage in politics to serve society and to instill Church values. ... [Participation] would be a model for the 270,000 Catholics in Taiwan and would encourage more faithful to enter the political circle."

Chen does not share the president-elect's liberal political views.

Taiwan is currently in a difficult political position. Its people claim it is sovereign, but China claims the country for itself. It was formed when Chiang Kai-shek — the leader of China — fled the Communists in the 1950s to the island of Formosa, now Taiwan.

Late last year the United States was threatened by China with sanctions for selling weapons to Taiwan. The Chinese government has also threatened military intervention.

Although DPP candidates won the election, it’s not known if China's influence in Taiwan's politics will be lessened. The president-elect never said she would work to decrease China's influence; however, she's never spoken out in favor of China's policies.


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