Tue, May 23, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Tang gets to work despite frailty

STRONG WILL After making a deal with his doctor for a temporary release, the new premier put in a half day of work yesterday at the Executive Yuan

By Irene Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Incoming Premier Tang Fei (唐飛) risked his frail health to work a half day yesterday before returning to Veterans General Hospital (榮民總醫院) where he has been receiving treatment since early April.

Tang, who underwent surgery on April 15 to remove a benign tumor from his chest, arrived at the Executive Yuan at 8:30am yesterday and started his first working day as premier.

Tang was originally released from hospital two weeks after the surgery. However, he was re-hospitalized on May 3 after infections were found to have been caused by the surgery.

Tang and his doctor have agreed that he will not work every day, but rather every other day for half a day, until his recovery is complete.

Worried about Tang's condition, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) phoned Tang yesterday morning and later asked Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), secretary-general of the Presidential Office, to convey his concerns to Tang.

"The president agreed, quite unwillingly, that Premier Tang could start working while in such a condition," Chang said. "However, he was very much impressed with Premier Tang's strong sense of responsibility and his determination to carry out his job regardless of ill health."

In fact, yesterday was not the first time Premier Tang impressed everyone with his strong will. Risking his health, he insisted on showing up at an orientation and training for members of the new Cabinet on May 13th, but apparently appeared pale and physically fragile.

Tang bargained with his doctor to obtain a leave from the hospital to attend the inauguration ceremony on May 20. The leave was only granted by the doctor on condition that Tang not shake hands with anyone.

"Deep rooted in Tang is the military's selfless culture, where nothing but accomplishing a mission counts," said Ping Lu (平路), a social critic and columnist. "He might be weak physically, but his will is strong to carry out his job and complete his mission, regardless of physical pain."

Since his appointment was announced in March, Premier Tang's popularity has increased considerably, as a number of polls have shown. Moreover, Tang's amiable character has kept him immune from negative coverage by the media. This is in contrast to the uproar that was sparked in 1990 when former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) appointed then defense minister, Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), to the position of premier.

Before his hospitalization, Tang would come out to the gate of his house every morning and announce the latest appointments to the Cabinet. Even in hospital, Tang was generous enough to spare time for short chats with visitors.

Talking about Tang's popularity, Ping Lu reasoned that Tang has so far met the public's expectations of him to be a useful but "harmless" premier.

"I think Taiwan's people are wise people who are aware of the symbolic nature of Tang's appointment and who accept it without worrying that this gentlemanly person would cause any trouble," Ping said.

"And look at Tang, whose shirt is always well-pressed and who salutes so beautifully. He is a smooth type and people believe in his integrity and more importantly, his harmlessness," Ping said.

However, Ching Heng-wei (金恆煒), editor-in-chief of the Contemporary Monthly, believes it would miss the point to welcome Tang's appointment as premier simply on the grounds of his character.

"However nice a person he is, it's against democratic norms for Chen to have appointed a military officer as premier," Ching said.

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