Mon, May 10, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Yeh Chu-lan sheds image as victimized widow

RESHUFFLE The soon-to-be vice premier entered politics largely on her late husband's name. She's since proven herself to be one of the DPP's most capable members

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yeh Chu-lan, chairwoman of the Council of Hakka Affairs, is set to take over as vice premier in President Chen Shui-bian's reshuffled Cabinet.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Council of Hakka Affairs Chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan's (葉菊蘭) being tapped to become vice premier in President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) reshuffled Cabinet shows Chen's determination to improve gender equality in the government and his appreciation of Yeh's contributions.

The administration has said it hopes to have nine female high-ranking officials in the reshuffled Cabinet. So far five have been confirmed.

"President Chen has always said that he places great importance on gender equality in the government, and the future and current Cabinets show this," said Lee Yung-chih (李永熾), a friend of Yeh and a Hakka historian. "However, you can't appoint people if they don't have the ability."

Lee said Yeh's experience as a legislator, head of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) and chairwoman of the Council of Hakka Affairs is proof of her competency.

The 55-year-old Yeh has long been favored by the media and by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters to rise through the ranks because of her successful management of the Council of Hakka Affairs and her status as a senior female politician within the DPP.

At the beginning of Chen's presidential campaign, many thought Yeh might replace Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) as Chen's running-mate. More recently, various media pointed to Yeh as a possible candidate to become the nation's first female premier.

Yeh joined the Cabinet in 2000 with her appointment as minister of transportation and communications. During her time at the MOTC, Yeh oversaw the privatization of Chunghwa Telecom and nearly resigned over the mishandling of a large oil spill in Kenting in 2001.

In 2002, Yeh was made chairwoman of the newly established Council of Hakka Affairs.

"The council had only been created for about two years when Yeh was given the leadership job. Under the first chairman, Fan Kuang-chun (范光群), the council had really only enough time to establish what its direction would be and plan some basic policies; practical implementation of those policies was done by Yeh," said long-time aide Yang Chang-chen (楊長鎮).

"For Yeh to be appointed to the council after being at the helm of the MOTC, which had an annual budget of over NT$400 billion, it was like going into an empty wasteland," said Yang, who has been working under Yeh since 1990.

However, Yang added, Yeh's Hakka heritage and experience in advertising stood her in good stead, helping her create the current vision of the council.

As chairwoman of the Council of Hakka Affairs, Yeh has received acclaim for popularizing Hakka culture by focusing on Hakka language and cultural revival. Under her leadership, the council established "Hakka cultural parks" and sponsored the creation of a 24-hour Hakka-language cable television station.

Council ventures, such as the annual Hakka Tung Blossom Festival and the 2002 Hakka Cultural and Art Festival, have been major vehicles of business, with the council estimating that last year's Tung Blossom Festival generated about NT$500 million in revenue.

DPP Legislator Hung Chi-chang (洪奇昌), who entered the Legislative Yuan with Yeh in 1990, called Yeh an important policy administrator, adding that her appointment as vice premier is a recognition of her contributions.

"We need to remember that the policies of the Hakka council were also a result of Chen's promises to the Hakka people from early on," said Hung, referring to examples such as Hakka language revival strategies made as one of Chen's 2000 presidential campaign promises.

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