Sun, Sep 05, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chang in spotlight since Chen talk

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chang Po-ya's long political career started when she ran for the Chiayi mayorship her mother had held before her.


President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has recently raised the issue of finding a suitable candidate to lead the Control Yuan. This question has brought Chang Po-ya (張博雅) back into the spotlight.

A former interior minister and current legislative Non-Partisan Liberty Union leader, Chang is the scion of a south Taiwan political family who has close ties to the democracy movement. She has maintained a position of independence, "without party and without faction," which has earned her considerable respect from both major parties.

At the same time, her unwillingness to be affiliated with a political party has seen her gradually pushed from the public stage, and she has become marginalized. According to some political observers, Chen is unlikely to raise her to high office, especially as she currently has the backing of the People First Party (PFP).

Chang was born in 1942 in Chiayi City and worked as a doctor after graduating in medicine and health care from Kyorin University in Japan.

In 1982, her mother, Hsu Shih-hsian (許世賢), Chiayi's mayor, passed away. Chang returned home to run in the mayoral elections that followed and was elected with a comfortable majority, and was subsequently re-elected. In 1989, Chang was elected to the legislature by a large margin. The following year, on the recommendation of former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Premier Hau Po-chun (郝柏村) brought her into the Cabinet as Minister of Health. In 1997, she resigned from the ministry and returned to Chiayi, where she was again elected mayor.

In 2000, Chen appointed Chang to head the interior ministry and serve as Taiwan Provincial Government chairwoman. Two years later, Chen sought to appoint her as deputy head of the Examination Yuan, but the appointment was not approved by the legislature. At the end of that year, with PFP support, Chang ran for Kaohsiung mayor, but failed to win much voter support.

After a period of time out of the political limelight, Chang established a new platform. She realized that voters had turned against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), but at the same time she had little confidence in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), so she formed a new group of 10 independent legislators called the Non-Partisan Liberty Union, serving as chairwoman of the preparatory committee.

"Although Chang has been active in establishing her own influence, the main problem is that she does not have any substantial political track record of achievements. Shifting her ground between the political parties also made voters doubt her political sincerity," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), editor-in-chief of Contemporary magazine.

"Her early political influence is a heritage which she got from her mother. People in Chiayi gave Chang support for her mother's sake," Chin said.

Chang's mother had over 30 years of experience in Chiayi administration. She was often called Chiayi's "Matsu" -- the goddess of the sea -- and she worked with her physician husband, Chang Chin-tung (張進通), often treating the poor for free and donating generously to the tangwai (黨外) movement against the authoritarian KMT regime. Hsu had a reputation of incorruptibility as mayor, and even today is remembered by the older generation of Chiayi residents.

"The emotion with which people still regard Hsu goes back to her days as a medical practitioner. Even when she was pregnant she insisted that she treat a child with malaria, and catching the infection she lost the child as a result," said political columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝).

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