A report in the latest edition of Next Magazine on Wednesday caused a stir with its allegations that National Security Bureau (NSB) agents had bought a taxi and rotated personnel to drive it so that the first lady would not feel she was “burdening people with her safety.”
The story said that when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was first sworn in in May 2008, first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) initially insisted on taking the bus and refused the personal car assigned to her.
However, after conflicts between agents safeguarding the first lady and members of the public asking for Chow’s autograph arose, Chow took to riding in taxis to work, the report said, so the bureau purchased a car, painted it like a taxi and kept it outside Chow’s residence so that it would be able to take her to work.
The report said the first lady might even to this day be unaware that the taxi she had been taking to work was driven by bureau personnel.
In response, the Presidential Office said that Chow had never taken a taxi to work since Ma’s election as president in March 2008.
Chow, formerly a lawyer for Mega International Commercial Bank (兆豐國際商銀), quit her job in June 2008.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, taxi drivers must have a professional driving license and be employed by a taxi company before they can have a permit to drive a taxi.
Any agent from the bureau would most probably be unable to obtain such a permit, the ministry said, adding that if the bureau had undertaken such an endeavor for the protection of the first lady, they would have been ticketed by police if they were pulled over.
Additional Reporting by Wang Pei-lin and Tsai Wei-chi