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Foreign ministry denies reported plan to punish late diplomat (update)

2018/12/21 19:00:06

CNA file photo

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Friday it respected the views of the family of a late Taiwanese diplomat about why he committed suicide but wished to make it clear that there were no plans to recall or penalize him, as was reported in the media.

The MOFA statement was the latest in a series of conflicting reports on why Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠), head of the Taiwan office in Japan's Osaka area with jurisdiction over the Kansai area, committed suicide at his residence in Osaka on Sept. 14.

Shortly after Su's death, there were speculations in the media and elsewhere that his suicide was linked to the criticisms leveled at his office and Taiwan's top envoy to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) over the plight of Taiwanese tourists at a flooded airport in Japan during Typhoon Jebi in early September.

Hsieh and MOFA later said that Su had committed suicide mainly due to a rumor spread by a netizen in September, which alleged that Taiwan nationals had been left stranded at Kansai International Airport in Japan during the flooding after Typhoon Jebi, while the Chinese embassy there had sent 15 tour buses to evacuate China citizens.

It was later made clear that no vehicles other than the airport shuttle buses were allowed to depart from Kansai airport while it was flooded.

On Thursday, Su's family released a statement contradicting MOFA and Hsieh's comments, saying that they had found no indication in a suicide note left by Su to support the claim that he had killed himself because he was troubled about the online rumor or the subsequent criticisms of him and his office.

Su committed suicide because he wanted to "avoid the humiliation" he was about to face, as his superiors at MOFA were planning to recall him and punish him over the incident of the stranded Taiwanese tourists, according to his family.

The attempts to attribute Su's suicide to "fake news and rumors" are "intentionally misleading," and damaging to his reputation, his family said.

According to local media reports, Su and all of his staff in Osaka were facing demerits over the airport incident.

Su reportedly received phone calls from both Hsieh and his superior, Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA) Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲), to ask him to take responsibility for the matter by accepting a demotion and returning to Taiwan.

However, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) on Friday denied the media reports, saying the ministry had no plans to recall Su or penalize the staff of the Osaka office over the incident.

With regard to the statement by Su's family, Lee said the ministry understands and fully respects their views on the matter.

Lee also said that after the Osaka incident, MOFA reviewed and published information that more clearly defined the role of its overseas missions, including their expected response in emergency situations involving Taiwan citizens living or traveling abroad.

Meanwhile, both Chang and Hsieh on Friday denied the reported allegation that they called Su to inform him of the so-called punishment.

They both insisted that there was no punishment planned for Su or his staff prior to his suicide.

(By Joseph Yeh)