Whenever reporters besiege Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) with requests for comments on a certain issue, Ma often sidesteps them by saying, "City government spokesman Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) will answer that for me."
Although Wu's articulate responses have blocked many thorny questions for Ma, his replies -- on Ma's behalf -- sometimes create trouble for the mayor.
Wrangling during the past week over the sharing of water resources between Taipei City and Taipei County may have died down were it not for Wu's sarcastic remarks.
When Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (
Wu was referring to a fire in Taipei County's Luchou on Aug. 31 that killed 15 people and injured 80. The high number of deaths was attributed to blocked lanes near the building that hampered access for fire-fighters. Su was accused of failing to implement parking regulations that would have given fire trucks better access to the fire.
Su, enraged by Wu's comments, responded that the Taipei City spokesman's remarks were "as biting as a dog's bite."
Wu then threatened to sue Su for humiliation.
Wu, 45, first impressed the public with his glib, off-the-cuff remarks on call-in shows on behalf of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Before becoming head of the city's Department of Information in 2001, Wu was a reporter at Broadcasting Corporation of China (
But Wu was not always a wizard with words. He obtained his master's degree from the Graduate School of Public Administration at Chengchi University, and then taught administrative law at Shih Hsin University and Taiwan Police College. Wu also ran for city councilor but failed.
He came to Ma's attention thanks to former city spokesman King Pu-tsun (
"Wu's tendency to overstate and provoke rhetoric has offended many people," according to a reporter who has covered Taipei politics for more than 15 years.
But King defended Wu, saying that as the defender of the mayor's policies and decisions, it was inevitable that the spokesman would come in for criticism.
"The role of the city's spokesman is like a mayor's `bullet-proof vest,' which protects the mayor from any possible attacks," King said. "It is inevitable for the spokesman to be criticized by city councilors or other opponents."
King, who has been listed persona non grata and dubbed an "arrogant rooster" by city councilors, said Wu's eloquence and loyalty is worth praising.
"Wu's fighting ability and fidelity are strong," King said. "I think he is just doing his job."
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) City Councilor Lee Chien-chang (
"Wu often blurts out his defense of Ma without much thought, which diverges from what he should be doing, which is being more discreet in choosing his words," Lee said. "His exaggerated body movements and words remind me of a gamecock."