Fri, Sep 26, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Dodgy massage has interior minister feeling the pinch

BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS Yu Cheng-hsien has apologized for receiving a massage from two unlicensed masseuses, but the KMT smells blood

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

The Cabinet yesterday said it would not be asking Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) to resign for accepting a massage from unlicensed masseuses.

"At the moment, there's no question of shouldering political responsibility as the matter doesn't involve any political decision made on any political issue," Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.

According to Lin, Premier Yu Shyi-kun has ordered the Cabinet's ethics department to investigate the matter, while Yu Cheng-hsien himself has apologized to the public for making a mistake and will assume any responsibility, both legal and administrative.

"The minister telephoned the premier on Wednesday to brief him before holding a press conference to offer his apology," Lin said. "As both the judicial and administrative systems are investigating the matter, I'm calling on the public and the media to be patient and stop politicizing the matter and making it more complicated."

Apparently unsatisfied with the Cabinet's handling of the incident, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) yesterday called on Yu Shyi-kun and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to offer an explanation to the public.

"As both the president and the premier think the minister is still fit for his job, I think both of them owe the public an explanation," Lee said.

Taipei City Government officials yesterday went to the massage parlor Yu Cheng-hsien visited, but it was closed.

The city, however, issued tickets of NT$10,000 to the two masseuses who worked on Yu Cheng-hsien and another NT$20,000 ticket to the proprietor.

The issue threatened to tarnish the government's image at a sensitive time -- just as Chen prepares for March's presidential election. Yu is one of Chen's confidants.

The investigation began after a magazine alleged that Yu accepted the massages as a bribe from businesspeople.

Yu acknowledged that he received the massage, but he denied that the businesspeople paid for it.

A local newspaper quoted Yu as saying that he comes from the south where people have a custom of taking turns in treating each other to such services.

"Sometimes people treat me, and the next time I treat them," Yu was quoted as saying.

Yu was not suspected of seeking sexual services from the two masseuses, who were described as older women.

But Yu acknowledged that the women were not licensed to perform massages and he apologized for not following regulations. Only visually-impaired people can get licenses to perform massages.

The interior minister has been the target of a number of accusations since taking up the post in February last year.

Most seriously, he was accused of involvement in the Zanadau scandal when he was Kaohsiung County commissioner after a former colleague of his was arrested late last year.

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