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Mon, Dec 27, 1999 - Page 3 News List

Hsieh shields Soong from media hype

SCANDAL A task force to investigate the presidential candidate's finances has dimmed the spotlight on the scandal, but critics are calling the move `unprofessional'

By Lauren Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

New Party legislator Hsieh Chi-ta's (謝啟大) visit to the Ministry of Finance last Friday, along with a team of lawyers and accountants, demanding to audit account information pertaining to independent presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) and members of his family at the Chung Hsing Bills Finance Corp (中興票券), has marked the beginning of an apparent counterattack strategy by Soong's camp.

But critics said although the strategy may relieve some of the intense pressure on Soong (宋楚瑜), the move showed a discouraging lack of professionalism, and demonstrates the potential damage that results from allowing politicians to meddle in finance.

As soon as Hsieh publicly announced on Friday she would set up a special task force to investigate the allegations of financial misdeeds -- saying Soong should talk less about money and more about policy -- Soong almost immediately restored scheduled rallies and other events meant to boost his signature drive, which began Saturday in Hualien (花蓮) County.

Before Friday, Soong had only appeared in public to defend himself or to attack his detractors.

At his first rally on Dec. 20, after KMT legislator Yang Chi-hsiung's (楊吉雄) went public with a second wave of allegations claiming that Soong had stashed an additional NT$470 million in the account of his sister-in-law Chen Pi-yuan (陳碧雲), Soong lashed out at high ranking finance ministry officials, singling out Minister of Finance Paul Chiu (邱正雄).

"In the controversy surrounding the Chung Hsing Bills Finance accounts, both myself and the KMT are the interested parties, but now, the KMT government seems to be playing the role of judge and jury at the same time," Soong said.

"The KMT is already combined with the current government administration, and has paved the way for the whole `truth' using bogus information.

"The KMT has degraded the finance ministry into nothing more than a tool for high ranking officials," Soong added.

In the cross-fire between both the KMT and the government, Soong said he has no option but to delegate what he said was a "third party" to conduct an "impartial" survey regarding the alleged money scandal.

The main reason for recommending Hsieh, Soong said, was for her clean-cut image and legal expertise, since Hsieh has served as a judge for over 10 years.

But opposition critics and academics took issue with Soong's choice, challenging both the motives and actions Hsieh's delegation have taken.

DPP National Assembly deputy Chiang Chao-I (江昭儀) said the relationship between Hsieh's delegation and Soong could be described as one of "personal trust," and therefore the selection of Hsieh cannot be truly considered as having been on behalf of all citizens.

"Hsieh should not blow her delegation out of proportion. There is no legitimate basis for which Hsieh can claim she is acting on behalf of the public to seek the truth," Chang said.

DPP legislative caucus leader Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) joined the chorus, strongly questioning Hsieh's legitimacy for intervening in the investigation procedure as a legislator.

"Soong said he has fully authorized Hsieh to probe financial transactions during the past eight years. But he appears to have conveniently ignored the fact that Hsieh is inclined to favor his campaign,'' Chen said.

Chen said based on that logic, the invitation should be open to others.

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