KMT demands Chen Chu be 'impeached' over donation abuses

07/13/2020 09:14 PM
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Chen Chu/ CNA file photo
Chen Chu/ CNA file photo

Taipei, July 13 (CNA) The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on Monday demanded that the Control Yuan "impeach" former Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) and probe what it described as abuses related to the handling of funds following deadly gas explosions in the city in 2014.

The Control Yuan, the government body in charge of holding public servants and agencies accountable for improper behavior, censured the former Chen administration on June 16 for inappropriately spending donations given to help the city recover from the gas explosions that left 32 people dead.

It also said Chen's government failed to record how the funds were used.

Just days later, Chen, who was Kaohsiung mayor from December 2006 until April 2018 and then served as Presidential Office secretary-general until May 20, 2020, was nominated by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to head the Control Yuan.

The nomination was strongly opposed by the KMT on the grounds that her team in Kaohsiung had been impeached multiple times by the Control Yuan and that she would lack impartiality.

On Monday, an investigation panel of the Kaohsiung City Council headed by Councilor Chen Li-na (陳麗娜) of the KMT said new findings by the panel showed that Chen Chu should reject the Control Yuan post before the disputes surrounding her are settled.

At a press conference in front of the Control Yuan, KMT legislators and city councilors requested that the body interview Chen Chu on her role in the alleged abuse of funds donated following the explosions.

It later presented a petition to the Control Yuan asking it "to investigate and impeach" the former Kaohsiung mayor, though KMT members did not explain what they hoped to gain by pursuing an impeachment of somebody no longer in office.

Chen Li-na said there was new evidence of three major flaws in the handling of those funds that were not revealed in the recent Control Yuan probe.

One of them involved "allocating the donated funds to certain departments and agencies" without the review and approval of the donations management committee.

The second involved inflating the amount spent for payments to lawyers hired to address the compensation lawsuits filed by explosion victims and their families against the companies held liable for the incident.

The third problem was "allowing city departments and agencies to keep civil donations for their own use and hide donation information" from the city government, according to the KMT.

Wang Yu-min (王育敏), head of the KMT's Culture and Communications Committee, suggested the Control Yuan investigate whether Chen Chu was involved in the "misappropriations" and charged that the former mayor was not qualified to head the body.

The Legislature is scheduled to begin its review of the list of nominees for the Control Yuan on Tuesday before a vote later this week to confirm them.

The Control Yuan consists of 29 members, who are appointed by the president and approved by the Legislature Yuan every six years. The terms of incumbent members end on July 31.

A statement released by Chen Chu's office said Chen's administration in Kaohsiung has seen itself cleared of all the accusations targeting it over the gas explosions.

It defended Chen against the Control Yuan's censure of June 16 by saying that there were members opposed to the decision who thought Kaohsiung handled the case appropriately.

The office asked the KMT to hand over any new evidence directly to judicial authorities to prove Chen's team broke the law in its handling of the donations, and accused the KMT of trying to "extract political gain from the pain of Kaohsiung's people."

A series of propylene gas explosions occurred in Cianjhen and Lingya Districts of Kaohsiung from late July 31 to early Aug. 1, 2014, following reports of gas leaks. A total of 32 peoples were killed, including seven regular and voluntary firefighters, and 321 others were injured.

According to data from the city government, donations from all walks of life for the accident surpassed NT$4.5 billion (US$152.8 million).

(By Ku Chuan, Yeh Su-ping and Elizabeth Hsu)

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