CHINA / Taiwan, HK, Macao

Scandal-hit Chen cedes some power to 'premier'
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-02 06:05

Taiwan's scandal-dogged leader Chen Shui-bian has ceded some powers to his "premier" to deflect growing pressure from supporters and opponents alike to resign.

But the opposition, media and analysts widely believe that Chen's move is too little too late.

"Presidential" spokesman David Lee confirmed yesterday that Chen, whose approval rating has sunk to new lows amid a swirl of corruption scandals embroiling his family, has handed over the day-to-day control of the island's government to "premier" Su Tseng-chang.

In a written statement late on Wednesday night, Chen pledged to give full power to Su to control Taiwan's "cabinet."

Chen also said he would no longer intervene in the affairs of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), including its political campaigns, according to Lee.

Chen and his family members promise to "conduct themselves according to the highest ethical standards and live up to the public's expectations," the statement said.

Lee, however, said Chen would still hold the "diplomatic" and military portfolios and have the say in ties with the Chinese mainland.

"The reason is, as you can see from news reporting, the scandal is unstoppable," Lee said when asked why Chen yielded some powers.

"In this society, if there's a scandal about a member of your family, it's a shame to the whole family."

Chen took the move amid media criticism as well as rising calls from both the DPP and the opposition for him to take responsibility for a series of scandals.

However, analysts say the move does not mark a major power shift given that Chen will still keep control of the major roles of his office.

"Chen is being pre-emptive and doing damage control over the scandal" implicating members of his family, said George Tsai, a political science professor at Chengchi University.

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that Chen's move did not go far enough and that he should resign from office.

"Chen has to seriously ponder over this issue. If he can't command the support of the people, what's the point of him continuing in this position?" Ma asked.

The KMT leader also said Chen has yet to come clean.

"Chen's son-in-law violated laws and abused powers and he has to make it clear whether he and his wife were aware of it ... instead of shifting the focus" by relinquishing powers, Ma said.

Another opposition party, People First Party, is planning a rally on Saturday to call for Chen's resignation.

A China Times commentary said yesterday: "Becoming a mere figurehead cannot quell the people's anger.

"The people had hoped that Chen would express regret, but he did not. The people had hoped that he would explain clearly what happened in those wrongdoings, but he did not," it said.

About 50 aides of DPP "lawmakers" issued a statement saying they had lost confidence in, and patience with, Chen.

(China Daily 06/02/2006 page1)