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Mon, May 15, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Ministry of the Interior to get tough-as-nails head

By Liu Shao-hua  /  STAFF REPORTER

After 17 years in politics, Chiayi City Mayor Chang Po-ya (張博雅) will soon join the Cabinet for the second time. Ten years ago, she was appointed director-general of the Department of Health (DOH) by then KMT Premier Hao Pei-tsun (郝柏村) for her background in public health.

She holds two master's degrees in public health from National Taiwan University and Johns Hopkins University, as well as a PhD earned in Japan.

This year, Chang has been invited by President-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to assume a new post as Minister of the Interior.

A political independent with DPP leanings, Chang has been accepted by both the KMT and DPP due for her rich political experience and the reputation of the politically-active Hsu Family faction (許家班) into which Chang was born.

Chang's mother Hsu Shih-hsien(許世賢), the founder of the Hsu Family -- which came to be seen as a virtual dynasty in local politics -- occupied high office in Chiayi County.

When in 1983 Hsu died during her term as Chiayi City mayor, Chang followed in her mother's footsteps, ran for election and became mayor of Chiayi.

From her mayoralty, Chang launched her political career. She has served as mayor for three terms, one term as legislator and headed the DOH for seven years.

Her experience outshines most of her male counterparts, but she has never focused much attention on the gender issue. "Some social welfare group should highlight gender, but implementation of policies should be carried out without regard to sex," said Chang.

Chang has built a reputation as a serious and tough politician. The launch of the public health insurance program and directing the differentiation of doctors and pharmacists, marked her main policy achievements at the DOH. She ran the department with an iron fist, despite the stiff resistance from medical professionals.

After leading the DOH, she returned to Chiayi City for the mayoral election again in 1997. Her bid for the mayoralty faced a severe challenge from opponents who made calls for a change in power in Chiayi. The Hsu family at that point had been involved in local politics for nearly 20 years.

During the final election campaign, she told voters that if she lost the election she would no longer run for official office. The move helped to consolidate Hsu Family supporters and propel her ultimately to victory in the election.

Chang's leave from her position as Chiayi mayor to take over as interior minister and no successors to the Hsu Family legacy in local politics have led some supporters, especially older ones, to fear the end of an era.

However, Chang has been denying the existence of the Hsu Family as a political faction. She said, "The name was given by others. We never named ourselves in this manner," adding that the so-called Hsu Family was just a symbol instead of a faction.

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