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Fri, Jan 14, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Lawmakers claim quake aid was used as KMT gifts

MUDSLINGING A group of pro-James Soong legislators has accused MOFA of giving away earthquake relief goods to buy votes for the KMT

By Catherine Sung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denied accusations yesterday that it handed over international earthquake relief items donated by a foreign country to the KMT to be used as campaign gifts.

Ministry spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) stressed that all relief goods received from overseas were directly transferred to the Nantou Emergency Command Center, and that such accusations are unfounded.

"The ministry's role was to make sure that relief goods from either overseas governments or non-government organizations (NGOs) cleared customs and were delivered to the [earthquake relief] command center," Chen said.

"Rescue and relief were on top of everyone's agenda. I don't think anybody would have such political motivations then," he said.

During a press conference yesterday, independent legislator Chen Chen-sheng (陳振盛) accused the KMT of handing out blankets donated by the Swedish government to solicit votes for the party's presidential candidate Lien Chan (連戰) at a campaign function in Tungshih (東勢) held last week.

He said the KMT was handing out the blankets in exchange for signed endorsement cards supporting Lien Chan. The 10,000 blankets were solicited in October by the Chinese Youth Peace Corps (CYPC), an offshoot of the KMT's Department of Youth Affairs, one month after the 921 earthquake.

"The ministry assisted in coordinating relief efforts between local NGOs and overseas sources," Chen said.

"We assisted the Youth Peace Corps in contacting with the Swedish government and later delivering the goods to the command center in Nantou," he added.

MOFA is not responsible for -- and cannot monitor -- goods after being received by the center, he said.

A spokesman from Lien's campaign headquarters denied ever using the blankets as political gifts and said that the CYPC is not part of its organization.

Huang Chung-hwei (黃重憲), the spokesman for the CYPC, also denied any misappropriation of earthquake relief goods.

He said most of the blankets have already been distributed throughout Taichung and Nantou counties, and that the remaining 1,200 or so blankets were not used as campaign gifts.

However, Tungshih residents interviewed by the TV station TVBS said that they have in effect received blankets stamped with words "donated by the Swedish government and received by the Chinese Youth Peace Corps."

The legislators who raised the accusations have themselves come out as strong supporters for independent presidential hopeful James Soong (宋楚瑜).

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