Last Thursday, National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital voted down a request from Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘) -- the son-in-law of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) -- to return to his job as an orthopedic doctor at the hospital. The hospital's decision will help preserve its reputation, given that it is already facing criticism as a result of Chao's implication in insider trading charges. However, whether the hospital can really keep Chao from returning to his job is another matter.
Three rounds of voting -- by the ethics committee, orthopedic department and the hospital management -- at the hospital were all against the return of Chao. During the last round of voting, by the hospital management, 57 people voted against Chao's return, one in favor, and one abstained. Why anyone would want to return to work in an environment showing such animosity is a question only Chao can answer.
In July, the hospital suspended Chao from his job based on Article 3 of the Civil Servants' Disciplinary Act, according to which any civil servant who is in custody or has an arrest warrant filed against him or her should be suspended from his or her job. Chao is considered a civil servant because he works for NTU Hospital ? a teaching hospital owned by National Taiwan University. NTU is of course a public university supervised by the Ministry of Education.
At the time of his original suspension, Chao was in jail, because the prosecutor's office detained him in order to avoid any risk of collusion between him and others implicated in the insider trading scandal. His suspension was valid on legal grounds.
According to Article 10 of the act, a civil servant who has been suspended from his or her job may request permission to return to that job within three months, after the reason for the original suspension ended. Chao is no longer in jail, and therefore he would like to go back to work. To protect the interests of civil servants, Article 10 also stipulates that unless there are legal grounds for refusing the request, the requester should be allowed to return to work.
The reason cited by NTU Hospital for refusing Chao's request was that he had seriously violated medical ethics and therefore was no longer fit to be a doctor at the hospital. This is where the hospital's decision could be challenged.
Chao's role in the insider trading scandal is distasteful. He was the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of public tolerance for scandals in which members of the first family were allegedly involved. The sense of resentment toward him is uniform across the pan-green and pan-blue camps.
This is why the hospital is placed on the spot. It would be wrong to welcome Chao with open arms -- not to mention an invitation for "red guards" to stage a siege at the hospital. However, Chao's case is still under criminal investigation, despite the fact that just about everyone believes he is guilty. His guilt will still need to be confirmed by a court of law.
The hot potato has now been passed to the Civil Servants Disciplinary Committee of the Judiciary Yuan, which holds the final authority regarding the fate of Chao. If the committee cannot find legal grounds to accept the decision of the hospital and Chao returns to work, this may be the excuse that the anti-Chen camp has been waiting for.