Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), a close aide of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his most ardent defender, offered a rare apology on Thursday. A staff member wrote comments on a Sept. 12 report in the Washington Post about the political strife between Ma and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) over the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) decision to revoke Wang’s party membership after allegations against Wang of improper lobbying.
The report, titled “Taiwan’s president, ruling party hit by scandal, rifts, anger over wiretapping,” discussed the political scandal and its consequences. Frank Wang (王億) director of the press division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US said in comments on the Post’s Web site that he was “very glad the KMT came to resolutely discipline its heavyweight party member. Taiwan’s judiciary will be cleaner, and the legislative process will be smoother.”
He also referred to Wang Jin-pyng as “former legislative speaker” even though he has retained his role as speaker and his party membership after a Taipei District Court injunction.
King apologized in a statement for letting his subordinate issue personal opinions on the incident and failing to maintain the office’s neutrality. He promised to instruct officials not to post personal comments that do not represent the office’s official position.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who obtained a copy of the letter to the editor penned by Frank Wang, accused King of lying when he said that he did not notice that the online messages were different from the letter, which indicated that the controversial comment had been added by King or another official.
It is unimportant who is responsible for the controversial comments, but judging from the office’s response, it is necessary for King, as the representative to the US, to offer a formal apology over his negligence.
However, as Ma’s confidant, known for his sharp attacks on Ma’s political rivals and critics, King is in no position to apologize for his subordinate’s defense of the president. He has violated the principle of neutrality and abused his authority too many times in defending Ma.
When King served as the information and news director during Ma’s Taipei mayoral term, many press officials and media executives were pressed not to carry negative coverage of the mayor. Interference in the media worsened over the years as Ma rose to become president and KMT chairman.
The latest example is political pundit Nan Fang Shuo’s (南方朔) accusations that the Ma administration persuaded the Chinese-language newspaper the China Times to reject his column on Sept. 17. He said this was done because it was critical of the president’s move against the speaker and described King, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), then-deputy secretary-general Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) and Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) as the “gang of four” involved in a “premeditated plan” against Wang Jin-pyng.
King fired back at the accusations and said he has filed a lawsuit against the pundit to defend his reputation and to stem abuse of freedom of speech.
It is outrageous, yet predictable, that King is still waging war on media coverage against Ma even though he is now the nation’s representative to the US. His priorities should be strengthening Taiwan-US relations, rather than paying attention to how local media have interpreted the wiretapping and lobbying incident.
Before offering an apology over his staff member’s behavior, King should engage in self-reflection and ponder his own violations of the principle of neutrality.