Tue, Feb 20, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Embattled Keelung mayor passes away

BY-ELECTION IMMINENT Hsu Tsai-li, who had been the focus for prosecutors in a land procurement corruption probe, died of chronic heart disease complications, aged 60

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AFP

Keelung Mayor Hsu Tsai-li (許財利), who had suffered from diabetes for years, passed away early yesterday morning. The law requires a by-election for the Keelung mayorship to be held within three months.

Hsu died of complications from chronic heart disease, doctors said. He was 60.

Hsu was elected as the Keelung mayor in 2001 and won re-election in 2005 by representing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

He is best known nationally for his involvement in a corruption scandal relating to a land procurement deal for the Keelung City Government's bus department.

The deal was later called off, after the city council suspected wrongdoing and referred the case to prosecutors, whose investigation centered on Hsu.

The Keelung District Court sentenced Hsu to seven years in prison, after finding him guilty of corruption for trying to sell a piece of his own land to the city's bus department at a large profit.

Hsu was kicked out of the KMT after his conviction in September, although he maintained his position as mayor.

He had protested his innocence until his death and had said he would appeal the ruling, a move that kept him out of prison under the Taiwanese legal system.

Hsu also faced a recall vote, as the KMT and the city council had threatened to force him out of office over the scandal.

The Public Officials Election and Recall Law (公職人員選舉罷免法) and the Local Government Act (地方制度法) stipulate that if a mayor leaves office for whatever reason before completing at least half his or her term, a by-election must be held within three months.

Central Election Commission (CEC) Spokesman Teng Tian-you (鄧天祐) said yesterday that the commission had made a preliminarily decision to hold the by-election before May 19.

Elections are customarily held on weekends, which means the Keelung by-election would most likely be held on May 12.

In addition to expressing their condolences, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), People First Party and Taiwan Solidarity Union yesterday all said that they would take part in the by-election.

Hsu had been undergoing dialysis treatment to treat diabetes complications. Three toes on his left foot had been amputated after becoming infected when he inspected a flooded area in Keelung in 2002.

Last year, KMT and DPP members launched a joint recall of Hsu after he was convicted of corruption. Since then, Hsu's health had deteriorated.

Hsu started his political career as a local borough chief. He had served as Keelung City councilor since 1982, and had been the speaker of the Keelung City Council for 12 consecutive years since 1990.

In 1997, Hsu withdrew from the KMT and campaigned for the Keelung mayorship, although he lost the election. He made a comeback in 2001, when he was elected mayor on a KMT nomination.

During his re-election bid in 2005, Hsu was accused of involvement in the land procurement scandal, but with full support of former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Hsu easily defeated his opponents and stayed in the city government.

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