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Wednesday, January 16, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Taiwan Arrests Seattle Doctor; Family Blames Politics

A Taiwanese-American physician and former instructor at the University of Washington School of Medicine has been arrested in Taiwan on charges of smuggling drugs and weapons - a victim, his wife and professional colleagues believe, of political harassment by the government there.

Fu-hsiung Shen, a U.S. citizen who lives in Seattle's Sheridan Beach neighborhood and operates a medical clinic in Taipei, was arrested Friday morning after arriving at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport on a flight from Seattle, the doctor's wife, Lorraine, said yesterday and is being held without bail.

The drug Shen was arrested for carrying, erythropoietin (EPO), is a medication that is ``used solely for the beneficial treatment of patients on (kidney) dialysis, a drug used through the world because of its dramatic effects on improved patient well-being,'' the head of the UW's kidney center, Dr. Belding Scribner, said yesterday in a letter expressing alarm at Shen's arrest. Shen is a kidney specialist who studied under Scribner.

Scribner and a colleague of Shen who also signed the letter, Suhail Ahmed, an associate professor of medicine at the UW, described Shen as ``an outstanding physician and extremely talented scientist who already has established a strong reputation in the United States as well as Asia in the field of kidney diseases.''

Scribner and Ahmed said they were ``appalled at Dr. Shen's unjustified detention and appeal to your sense of humanity and ask that you release this fine young physician in order that he may continue his important clinical and scientific work.''

Lorraine Shen, said she was not notified officially by Taiwan authorities of her husband's arrest and that relatives learned his whereabouts.

In 22 years of marriage, she said, she had never seen her husband so much as handle a gun.

Shen's arrest was ``purely an act of political oppression,'' she said.

The International Committee for Human Rights in Taiwan, which has offices in the Netherlands, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., also denounced the arrest.

``We believe that the charges against Dr. Shen are an outrageous fabrication by the Kuomintang authorities,'' who rule Taiwan, the organization said in a statement. ``He is a longtime advocate of peaceful political change in Taiwan, and has been a vocal, and generous, supporter of the democratic opposition.''

The committee's statement said that by arresting Shen the Taiwan government apparently intends ''to silence overseas supporters of the DPP,'' the Democratic Progressive Party, which is major political opposition to the Kuomintang, or Nationalist, party.

The Nationalists have run Taiwan since Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island off the China coast after the mainland fell to Mao Tse-tung's Communists in 1949. Political opposition was outlawed until the government began taking steps toward democratization in 1986.

Since then, the DPP and at least a dozen other political parties have sprung up. The DPP has pushed for more rapid democratization of political life, and one wing of the party openly advocates declaring Taiwan's independence of China - a position that is anathema to both the Nationalists and the Communist government in Beijing, both of which claim to be the legitimate rulers of all China, including Taiwan.

Merely advocating independence is sedition in Taiwan. Last month, Huang Hua, who had spent 21 of his 52 years in Taiwanese prisons for urging independence, was sentenced to another 10 years on new charges of sedition.

Lorraine Shen said she became concerned after her husband failed to telephone her after his arrival in Taipei. When he still did not answer at his Taipei residence the following morning, she said, she began telephoning relatives. They were told of Shen's arrest by Hung Chi-chang, a DPP member of Parliament.

Hung, who is also a physician, pointed out to authorities that EPO is a prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and legal for use in Taiwan, and demanded Shen's release, Lorraine Shen said.

Officials of the Investigation Bureau of the Ministry of Justice refused, saying he also was being held for weapons smuggling.

Lorraine Shen said no formal charges have been brought against her husband.

Lorraine Shen said the American Institute in Taiwan, which serves as the U.S. Embassy there, was not informed of her husband's arrest until more than 60 hours after it occurred. Staffed primarily by diplomats on leave from the State Department, the institute has watched over American interests in Taiwan since the U.S. withdrew diplomatic recognition from the Taiwan government and recognized the Beijing regime instead.

Shen received his medical degree from National Taiwan University Medical School and later studied at the University of California's San Francisco Medical Center, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the UW.

He was an assistant and associate professor at the UW medical school from 1974-87 and served as chief of the nephrology division at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Seattle from 1982-86.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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