#METOO/DPP deputy secretary-general resigns over sexual harassment case
Taipei, June 1 (CNA) The deputy secretary-general of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Hsu Chia-tien (許嘉恬) stepped down from her post Thursday, shortly after being suspended by the party over her handling of a sexual harassment case involving a former party worker.
While attending a painting exhibition in Taipei on Thursday afternoon, DPP Chairman Lai Ching-te (賴清德) told reporters that he has approved Hsu's resignation.
Lai again apologized to the party worker and promised to launch an investigation into the case as soon as possible.
The case initially came to light after a social media post from the former party worker Wednesday night, detailing how Hsu poured cold water on her pleas for help after being sexually harassed and dissuaded her from seeking a full investigation into the incident.
According to the woman who worked in DPP's then women's affairs department, which is now the gender equality department, she was assaulted last September after a film shoot. As the film crew made the long journey back to the studio in an SUV, the director touched her cheek, shoulder and breast, as others members of the crew slept, she said.
She reported the incident to Hsu, only to be stunned by Hsu's "cold" response: "So what? What do you want me to do?"
Hsu's attitude remained the same afterward, the former party worker wrote. At their second meeting at a café Hsu said she had forgotten the woman was "too young" and told her that she had experienced similar incidents herself. Hsu even asked her: "Why didn't you ... jump out of the car? I don't get it, why didn't you scream?"
"From the beginning to the end, I did not receive a single phone call of concern from [Hsu]. Instead, it was my colleagues who received lots of calls from her asking if I was spreading rumors about her," the post said.
The former party worker added that even the information about counseling she needed was sent to her by her colleagues, who received it from Hsu. Moreover, it was not until after the local elections in November last year that she learned the DPP could have covered her medical expenses if she had applied, information that had not been disclosed at the time.
In a Facebook post Thursday morning, Lai apologized to the woman on behalf of the party, saying the DPP has "zero tolerance" for sexual harassment.
Lai said the DPP secretary-general met with the woman soon after learning about the news, and the party has formed an investigation group comprised of individuals from related departments, with Hsu suspended from her position pending an investigation.
In addition to promising that the party will provide the harassed former party worker with legal services, Lai thanked the woman for having the courage to speak out, providing the party with an opportunity to confront and address the problems.
At a press conference on the issue held by the DPP on Thursday, head of the party's gender equality department Lee Yen-jong (李晏榕) reiterated Lai's position and called on the public not to jump to conclusions without evidence, saying the department would try its best to talk to the woman and see how she wants to proceed.
Asked whether there is any record of the case being reported, Lee said she is not aware of any formal complaint having been raised, adding that currently the investigation is focusing on Hsu, and any further action against the alleged perpetrator depends on whether the woman asks for further action to be taken.
The case has attracted much public attention and was commented on by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who previously served as DPP chairwoman. According to Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (林聿禪), Tsai severely condemns any sexual harassment and voiced her support for the DPP investigation into the case.
Meanwhile, there have been calls for Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), former DPP deputy secretary-general, who supervised the women's department at the time, to take political responsibility.
In response, Lin said the report he received was cursory and did not contain information about the alleged victim because it was a sexual harassment case and the focus was on protecting the alleged victim's anonymity, adding that he was informed by the women's department that the woman had chosen not to file a formal complaint.
Lin said he regretted not following up as to the woman's reasons for making that decision, offering his sincere apologies and undertaking to reflect and improve.
Also on Thursday, Taipei's Department of Labor announced that it had asked the DPP to submit a report on how it is dealing with the case by June 5.
Citing Article 13 of the Act of Gender Equality in Employment, the department said employers are required to implement effective correctional measures as soon as being informed of an incidence of sexual harassment, even if an employee leaves their place of employment.
If the employee finds the measures ineffective or unsatisfactory, they can raise a complaint with the labor department, which has a gender equality group to look into such cases and can fine employers from NT$100,000 (US$3,254) to NT$500,000, as well as make public the name of the employer and individual in charge.
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