The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday said the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had launched another smear campaign against DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) over her involvement in Yu Chang Biologics Co (宇昌生技股份有限公司), saying the KMT’s allegation lacked solid evidence.
The KMT said Tsai received improper benefits from the firm when she served in government, but according to DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), the KMT has purposely chosen to release only partial information and made the allegation purely on speculation.
A pair of declassified documents with Tsai’s signature dating from the time she served as vice premier were provided to the legislature yesterday by Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) Minister Christina Liu (劉憶如) in the presence of several KMT lawmakers and political pundit Clara Chou (周玉蔻).
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠), one of the scientists who invited Tsai to join Yu Chang, told reporters on Sunday that the controversy has been “unfair” to Tsai.
In a press release yesterday, Wong said Tsai should be commended for her assistance in developing the biotech industry.
Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶), former deputy secretary-general of the Executive Yuan, also told reporters yesterday that Tsai did not violate “revolving door” regulations on public officials because the regulation does not apply to deputies and the biotech industry was not under the scope of Tsai’s supervision at the time.
Chen said the so-called scandal is the result of collaboration between the KMT, its legislators, government officials, some media outlets and political pundits, and comes about a month before the presidential election, which stands to benefit President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign.
Chen said Liu had failed to maintain her administrative neutrality when she said Tsai had been called a shoo-in as Yu Chang chairperson at an investors’ conference on March 31, 2007, when she was still vice premier.
The KMT said Tsai was guilty of a conflict of interest because of her involvement with Yu Chang after she left office in August 2007 and she later became chairperson of the firm, which received investment from the state-owned National Development Fund (NDF), adding that Tsai had received NT$100 million (then US$3.3 million) when she sold her shares in the company in 2009.
The KMT has questioned Tsai’s role in the case on at least four grounds — investment of Tsai’s family businesses, her position as Yu Chang’s chairperson after leaving office, the classification of related documents as top-secret and suspected profiteering by Tsai and her family.
Tsai was keen on promoting the biotech industry as one of the nation’s strategic sectors when she served as vice premier and did not decide to persuade her family to invest after the start-up failed to attract investors in its initial stage, former CEPD chairperson Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) said during a press conference.
“The accusation of Tsai wanting to profit from this project is far from the truth. Without the Tsai family’s funding, the company would not have been created in time for the deal,” she said.
Ho added that it was not possible that Tsai paved her way to the position of Yu Chang’s chairperson because she would not have resigned as vice premier if former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) did not step down after losing the DPP primary for the 2008 presidential election.
She decided to keep the document on the establishment of Yu Chang and a bid for Genentech confidential because there were foreign competitors vying for the deal at the time, Ho said.
“The documents were classified as ‘official secret’ — not ‘national secret’ — and could be declassified after the contract was signed,” she said.
Tsai’s resignation as vice premier in May 2007 and her assuming the DPP’s leadership position in May 2008 could have never been planned and that should be enough to eliminate all the conspiracy theories, said Lien Yuan-lung (連元龍), a lawyer representing the DPP, adding that the project was “tailor-made” for Tsai.
Tsai did not say her family would invest in Yu Chang in the official documents nor did her family members attend the investors’ conference, Lien said, adding that Tsai said publicly on Sept. 15, 2007, that her family would withdraw its investment once the project was fully funded.
The NDF’s funding of the company did not bypass the required screening procedures because the NDF approved the funding on April 17, 2007, he said.
The only difference between the funding and other projects, he said, was that it was planned as a “special project” by a top-down decision, the same process as when the Ma administration approved the investment of NT$5 billion in China Airlines in 2009, which posted a NT$3.8 billion loss that year.
In response to accusations by the KMT that Tsai masterminded the passage of the Biotech and New Pharmaceuticals Industry Development Act (生技新藥產業發展條例) in 2007 to help establish Yu Chang, the DPP said that piece of legislation was pushed through by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who himself has said the act was beneficial to the nation.
According to the legislature’s gazette, Wang played an active role in the enactment and passage of the act and was part of efforts jointly exerted by the legislature, then dominated by the KMT, and executive branches to offer various incentives to boost the sector.
The act was supported by 104 lawmakers, out of a total of 225 seats, across party lines, led by Wang and then-legislative deputy speaker David Chung (鍾榮吉) of the People First Party, marking the first and only time in the nation’s history that a bill was sponsored by the legislative speaker and the deputy speaker.
Sent to the legislature’s clerk on June 6, 2007, the act swiftly cleared the legislature before the legislative session went into summer recess on June 15, which would not have been possible without consensus among political parties, as the political climate at that time was confrontational.
“The act has benefited the nation. If it hadn’t been passed at that time, it was likely that the biotech and new pharmaceutical industry was doomed,” Wang said today.
Wang said government officials involved in the development of the industry and professionals could corroborate his argument.
“Go ahead and ask them their views on the act,” Wang said.
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