The Presidential Office yesterday said that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would leave the appointment of the next president of Academia Sinica to president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), after the outgoing president’s plan to meet with the three nominated candidates before leaving office fell through.
Citing a letter sent to the office by Academia Sinica interim president Wang Fan-sen (王汎森) yesterday morning, Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) said in a statement issued later yesterday that it had been confirmed that a meeting between Ma and the three candidates could not be arranged before Friday, when Tsai is to be sworn in.
“Wang explained in the letter that two of the nominated candidates — University of California Los Angeles department of chemistry and biochemistry director James Liao (廖俊智) and Academia Sinica institute of atomic and molecular sciences director Chou Mei-yin (周美吟) — expressed the hope to meet with Ma only after the president had made an unequivocal instruction on the legitimacy and effectiveness of their nominations by the Academia Sinica Council,” Chen said.
City University of Hong Kong president Kuo Way (郭位) has yet to respond to a request for a meeting with Ma, Chen said.
Kuo has said separately that he has withdrawn his candidacy for the position.
Chen said since Ma expressed his attitude toward the nominations in a letter written by Presidential Office Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) on Thursday last week, which described the nomination process as “involving no nonconformity with the law thus far,” he does not see the need to further explain the matter.
Upholding his earlier pledge not to make an appointment before talking to the candidates about their aspirations for the institute, Ma has decided to let Tsai make the decision, Chen said.
Ma made the decision amid growing calls for Tsai to appoint the next president of Academia Sinica, the nation’s top academic institute, which has been dogged by controversy since former president Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) became embroiled in an insider trading and corruption scandal involving biotech company OBI Pharma Inc (台灣浩鼎) in February.
As controversy over the case intensified, Wong, who was in the US at the time, faxed his resignation to Ma on March 29, but it was rejected and the president urged him to return to Taiwan and explain the case at the earliest date.
In an unexpected move, Ma approved Wong’s resignation on Wednesday last week and subsequently designated Wang as interim president.
According to Article 3 of the Organization Act of Academia Sinica (中央研究院組織法), the Academia Sinica Council should select three candidates, one of whom should then be appointed to a five-year term by the president.
Academia Sinica has enjoyed high prestige both domestically and internationally since its establishment in 1928, Chen said, but the institution is facing an unprecedented crisis.
“Ma believes the institute is in need of a forward-thinking and morally disciplined president to steer it away from the shadows and restore its hard-earned academic reputation,” Chen said.
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