Following statements from incoming Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Cabinet members that sparked criticism from the public, those Cabinet members should be reminded that, though they have not yet been sworn in, whatever they say could damage the public’s trust in the incoming government.
On Monday, minister without portfolio-designate Chang Ching-sen (張景森) triggered outrage when he posted a picture of an ad for a new luxury apartment complex Wenlin Yuan (文林苑) in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林) on Facebook, saying that the Wang (王) family had benefited from it since it received five units worth more than NT$100 million (US$3.1 million) in exchange for the family’s two townhouses that were demolished to make room for the apartments, despite the family’s strong opposition to the demolition.
Chang said the student activists who supported the Wangs’ campaign to save the houses were “pitiful.”
Chang deleted the post within 30 minutes and apologized, but there have already been calls from the public for Chang to be removed from his future Cabinet position.
It was not the only case in which Chang has drawn fire over his Facebook posts.
Chang was also criticized over a post in which he posted a picture of a pair of female breasts when asking if anyone would like to join him for a hiking trip to Jiuwu Peak (九五峰) in Nangang District (南港), Taipei.
Chang is not the only future Cabinet member to make controversial statements.
Last week, Council of Agriculture minister-designate Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) sparked controversy when he said he would not be able to stop it if the government decides to lift its ban on pork products from the US containing traces of the additive ractopamine, even though the DPP has previously strongly opposed such a move.
Although the DPP government has yet to be sworn in, the statements by its future officials will affect trust in the incoming government.
Chang’s comments on the Shilin demolitions came as a shock to many DPP supporters, because the controversial construction firm-initiated “urban renewal” project triggered a massive protest movement that halted the project for years and practically led to a suspension of all urban renewal projects in the city.
At the time, DPP politicians stood behind the Wangs and student protesters, promising to push for revision of laws concerning urban renewal and to realize “justice in housing” when in power.
Chang’s remarks will, of course, make the public suspicious of the DPP’s previous promises and question whether the DPP changed its stance after winning power.
As for Tsao, he could be more careful when commenting about the US pork issue to avoid causing trouble for himself and the incoming DPP government.
Although it might be obvious that Taiwan is under tremendous pressure from the US to lift the ban on its pork imports, as the US is apparently using it as a bargaining chip for Taiwan’s membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it is highly inappropriate for a future government official to openly declare that he would not be able to stop it from happening.
It is inappropriate not only because it would be seen as a U-turn from the DPP’s stance on the issue, but also because it would reveal Taiwan’s bottom line in negotiations with the US.
Although president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) won a landslide victory and the DPP garnered an absolute majority in the legislature for the first time in the January’s elections, the DPP’s own poll shows that the approval rating for the incoming Cabinet is less than 50 percent.
It is a time for the DPP to build — not to damage — public confidence in the incoming government.
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