Update: ●Nov. 16: Chen Chien-jen introduced as Tsai Ing-wen's running mate
Taipei, Nov. 14 (CNA) The manager of the campaign office of Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, confirmed Saturday media reports that epidemiologist Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), vice president of Academia Sinica (中研院), will serve as Tsai's running mate in the Jan. 16 presidential election, despite having little experience in politics.
Chen Chu (陳菊), Kaohsiung mayor and Tsai's campaign manager, said that "the report is true" when she spoke on the sidelines of a Hakka cultural activity in the southern Taiwan port city.
Chen said she should not have divulged the information, but since the media reports have named him, she could say so.
The mayor also said she was happy that Tsai's deputy is someone from Kaohsiung. Chen, the epidemiologist and former head of the Department of Health ( since elevated to become the Ministry of Health and Welfare), is from the city's Qishan District (旗山區).
Chen's father, Chen Hsin-an (陳新安), is a former Kaohsiung magistrate.
Amid media reports that Chen Chien-jen will serve as Tsai's running mate and that he fits Tsai's description of choosing one with an "atypical political style," he responded Saturday that "this matter will be announced simultaneously with (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai."
Chen, 64, holds a Sc.D. in epidemiology and human genetics from Johns Hopkins University in the United States. He began research on hepatitis B early on and was one of the first champions to promote across-the- board vaccination against the disease, which is widespread in Taiwan.
He is also an expert on arsenic poisoning, and took part in a team to research black foot disease, a disease that peaked in southwestern Taiwan between 1956 and 1960, and found links between the high death rate among residents and drinking water from deep wells that contain arsenic.
He is best known for being a key figure in the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Taiwan in 2003, during which time he was in charge of the Department of Health and headed the nation's campaign against the contagious disease.
Asked why he was willing to step forward at the time when the country was in the grip by panic, he cited his religious belief, saying that he is committed to serving the people.
HE also served as the head of the National Science Council (now called the Ministry of Science and Technology).
Even though he has left public office, he has never hesitated to speak up at major events in Taiwan, such as food safety scandals, as well as opposition to the construction of a controversial petrochemical complex.
When Tsai was embroiled in a government investment in biotechnology company TaiMed Biologics Inc.(宇昌生技), he also came to her defense and endorsed her through a petition campaign. Tsai served as the company's chairwoman in 2007.
(By Chen Chi-fon, Chen Chi-chung and Lilian Wu)ENDITEM/J