President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday approved the resignation of Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠), amid an ongoing investigation into Wong’s role in an insider trading scandal involving biotech company OBI Pharma Inc (台灣浩鼎).
Wong offered his resignation on March 29 when traveling in the US, but Ma did not accept it at the time and demanded instead that Wong return to Taiwan to respond to the allegations.
Allegations of improper conduct began after Wong endorsed a new OBI Pharma cancer drug, despite discouraging clinical trial results in February, and it emerged shortly afterward that his daughter is a major shareholder in the company.
It also emerged that Wong, on behalf of his daughter, sold 10,000 of the firm’s shares before the trial results were publicly released.
Explaining his behavior to the Legislative Yuan last month, Wong said he decided not to resign in order to uphold Academia Sinica’s reputation.
However, Ma decided to approve Wong’s resignation — also to uphold the institute’s reputation — after considering public opinion, according to a statement issued by the Presidential Office yesterday.
“Wong’s decision to stay on in the post to uphold Taiwan’s reputation and prevent turmoil in [Academia Sinica’s] administration was a superfluous consideration,” the statement said.
With prosecutors probing the case, the public thinks Wong should resign over his involvement in the scandal, and an informal agreement has been reached between president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), former Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) and legislators across party lines that Wong should resign and cooperate with the prosecutors’ investigation, the statement said.
Although Ma did not accept Wong’s resignation at first, Wong has been in “standby status awaiting resignation approval” since he submitted his resignation, the statement added.
Ma has decided to accept a controversial three-person list of candidates to replace Wang submitted by the institute’s selection committee last month, and has asked Academia Sinica to arrange interviews with the candidates before he steps down on Friday next week, according to a Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) report yesterday.
After the interviews, Ma would discuss his pick with Tsai, and the appointment of Academia Sinica’s next president would be made if they agree on the candidate, the report said.
However, if Tsai disagrees with Ma, the appointment would be left to her after she assumes office, the report said.
Typically, the candidate winning the most votes from members of the selection committee is appointed the institution’s president. According to details on the candidates leaked to the media last month, University of California Los Angeles department of chemistry and biochemistry director James Liao (廖俊智) is leading the race.
According to the list, Liao is followed by Academia Sinica institute of atomic and molecular sciences director Chou Mei-yin (周美吟) and then by City University of Hong Kong president Kuo Way (郭位). However, Kuo has withdrawn from the selection process.
Regarding Ma’s last-minute approval of Wong’s resignation, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Yang Chia-liang (楊家俍) said the party respects Ma’s authority over the appointment of Academia Sinica’s president, but Ma has delayed the issue until nine days before his term expires.