Taipei, April 2 (CNA) The Control Yuan has launched an investigation into allegations of corruption against Nantou County Magistrate Lee Chao-ching, which have led to his suspension and a rejection Monday of his request to be reinstated in his post.
Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan said Monday night his ministry had decided to refer Lee's case to the Control Yuan in accordance with the law, and the suspension will therefore be maintained.
The decision marked the first time that a democratically elected local government head has been suspended from his post and put under investigation by the Control Yuan, the watchdog arm of the government.
The Control Yuan said two of its members, Shen Mei-chen and Chen Yung-hsiang, are probing graft allegations against Lee.
Lee is accused of taking kickbacks mainly in relation to projects for post-disaster reconstruction of roads and bridges and procurement contracts for a national sports meet.
Shen said Lee's questioning will begin after he has been indicted on corruption charges. The Control Yuan will also question other civil servants in the county government, she said.
Asked whether he had received any directives from his superiors regarding Lee's reinstatement request, Lee Hong-yuan said "absolutely not."
In fact, the minister said, he had been mulling the matter since March 28 and took several days to make the decision.
The minister also said he had issued an ultimatum to Lee to withdraw his request by 7 p.m. Monday, otherwise the case would have to be handled in accordance with the Public Functionaries Discipline Act.
The minister said that after he made the decision, he informed Premier Jiang Yi-huah and sent a copy of the news release on the matter to President Ma Ying-jeou.
On the question of an acting replacement for the magistrate, Lee Hong-yuan mentioned Nantou Deputy Magistrate Chen Chih-ching, saying Chen is a competent official.
The replacement should be selected based on the ability to handle the county's administrative affairs smoothly, the interior minister said.
Meanwhile, Vice President Wu Den-yih denied reports that he had given Lee Chao-ching the assurance he would be reinstated.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah also backed the ministry's decision, saying any move made in accordance with the law should be supported.
In the broader society, pro-Taiwan dependence groups staged a protest in front of the Nantou County government Tuesday, calling for Lee's resignation.
They also took issue with the fact that Lee will still be receiving half of his salary while he is on suspension.
(By Sophia Yeh, Claudia Liu, Lin Heng-li, Kelven Huang, Chen Shun-hsieh
and Y.L. Kao)