Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) said yesterday the party and government agencies should work together to address public opinion, brushing off criticism of his interference with the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) proposed fine on smoking while walking or driving.
“The party and administrative bodies should negotiate on public grievances. People complain about the government being numb if we don’t respond to public grievances, and say we are meddling when we do respond,” King said yesterday during a visit to Hualien.
King called EPA Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) on Thursday to express his concern about the administration’s plan to fine people who smoke while walking or driving and said the EPA should examine the proposed policy as the plan had drawn public opposition.
At a press conference on Thursday night, the EPA said it would reconsider the proposed policy.
Under the initial proposal, smokers in public spaces would have to either stand near ashtrays or carry one. Smoking while walking or riding scooters and motorcycles would be banned completely and offenders could face fines ranging from NT$1,200 to NT$6,000 to be handed out by EPA personnel or traffic police.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday slammed King’s move as “too much.”
“A government is a government. Its top official is the premier, head of the Executive Yuan,” Tsai said. “[If King] has different opinions, he should forward them to the head of the Executive Yuan and let the premier communicate with his ministers, and not intervene directly.”
In response to the criticism, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday declared his support for King, saying it was “normal” for King to share his opinion with government officials. Wu said there was no “policy change” because the EPA’s proposal is still only a proposal.
“Many people express their opinions via e-mail or telephone. I get about 20 or 30 calls from legislators a day to tell me what people think, and it is quite normal,” Wu said after attending an event in Taipei.
“[King] was only responding to public opinion. Actually, the policy has not yet been implemented, and everyone can write letters or make phone calls to express their opinions to the government,” Wu said.
The EPA said yesterday that it was only responding to public opinion.
EPA Environmental Health and Pollutant Management Director Wang Jiunn-iuan (王俊淵), one of the drafters of the proposal, said his department had received complaints from the public and local governments regarding the policy.
“Our gauge of public reaction was that they don’t like it. As a result, we are reconsidering our policies in this area,” Wang said.
He said the sudden reversal was the result of agency considerations, not because of political interference by KMT party officials.
“We only implemented the revised Tobacco Hazards Control Act [菸害防制法] a short while back ... It is too soon for us to introduce another [significant measure],” Wang said.
An EPA press release on Thursday cited possible conflicts with sections 15 and 16 of the Tobacco Hazards Control Act, which allows local governments to prohibit smoking in certain outdoor areas.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG
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