An uproar over the questionable hiring and padding of pension plans for a few Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members and their allies appears unlikely to die down quietly — nor should it. As an aging nation, retirement and pensions are increasingly crucial issues that need to be addressed.
On Thursday, the Control Yuan reprimanded the Taiwan Provincial Government over its hiring of former Government Information Office (GIO) official Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英) in March because it appeared that a job had been created especially for him.
Showing some of the incredible chutzpah for which he became famous a few years ago, Kuo had applied for retirement on April 22, just one month after he had been appointed foreign affairs secretary-general, a promotion that would earn him a bump in pension pay. Despite working for the provincial government for less than six months, he is apparently qualified to retire on a full pension.
Kuo’s chutzpah landed him in hot water in 2009 after some comments he posted online under the pen name Fan Lan-chin (范蘭欽) — while he was serving in Toronto for the GIO — came to light, showing a clear disdain for the very people he was supposed to be representing and who were paying his salary.
Referring to himself as “high-class Mainlander,” Kuo wrote: “[China] should spend many years suppressing [people in Taiwan] instead of granting [them] any political freedom once they have taken Taiwan by force.” He also called Taiwan a “ghost island” and said Taiwanese were “rednecks.”
He lost the cushy Toronto post and, upon returning to Taipei, was sacked by the GIO. In May the following year, his online postings led the Taiwan High Court to find him guilty of defaming Taiwan University professor Chen Shih-meng (陳師孟) and political commentator Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), whom he had described as “official violent dogs for Taiwanese independence” and using “violence to oppress the weak.”
However, despite this, Kuo could still walk off with a nice pension. His retirement application has already been processed and a Ministry of Civil Service official said the ministry would have to review whether the Control Yuan reprimand of the Taiwan Provincial Government would have any effect on Kuo’s status.
Former New Party legislator Hsieh Chi-ta (謝啟大) has not fared quite so well, though she is unlikely to face poverty in her golden years.
The Taipei City Government hired Hsieh in July last year — a year ahead of retirement age — and she was promoted to senior specialist at its secretariat just ahead of her 65th birthday, apparently to boost her pension. She had put in 22 years as a bureaucrat before moving to China, where she worked for 10 years.
At the beginning of May, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) defended Hsieh’s position as “well-placed” given her legal expertise, while Hsieh said she had no intentions of quitting her job. On May 8, she did just that, after Hau criticized her for traveling to China to appear on a TV talk show in which she criticized the Sunflower movement protests. She announced she would not receive a pension.
There is no reason an individual should not be able to go on working as long as they are able to or interested in doing so. Age should not be a bar to qualified individuals being hired. However, Kuo’s and Hsieh’s cases raised a lot of red flags about qualifications. Neither could be explained as normal hiring practice for a civil service position.