Wed, Mar 26, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Post-Election 2008: Ma's wife determined to carry on as bank lawyer

CONFLICT OF INTEREST? Chow Mei-ching said her work at the bank involved providing legal advice and does not include management, operations or decision-making

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) wife Chow Mei-ching (周美青) said yesterday she would continue working as a lawyer for Mega International Commercial Bank, but had resigned as a board member to prevent a conflict of interest.

The incoming first lady, who is a legal department director at the government-controlled bank, defended her right to work, saying that her work -- providing legal advice to the bank -- did not involve bank management.

"My work does not include banking management, the company's operations or decision-making," Chow said in a written statement.

"I don't need to face customers and it's impossible for me be involved in transfer of benefits," she said.


To prevent conflict of interest, however, Chow said she had resigned as board member of the bank and of the Dwen An Social Welfare Foundation, a charity group established by Ma.

Chow made the announcement yesterday amid debate over whether she should continue working after her husband's inauguration on May 20.

When asked to comment on the issue, Ma said at his post-election press conference on Saturday that he would respect Chow's decision.

Chow has shunned the spotlight and insisted on going about her normal life ever since Ma entered politics.

She seldom accompanies Ma to public events and only campaigned for him during the final days of election campaigns.

On Monday, Chow went to work as normal, by bus.

"Please don't call me the president's wife. I am department head Chow," she told reporters who followed her to work.

Although Chow insists on keeping her job, she said she would not take public transportation again and apologized to other passengers as reporters and photographers packed the bus she took on Monday and again yesterday.

If her work adversely affects the bank's reputation or its operations, or if her workload poses a negative impact on her duties as the first lady, Chow said she would consider leaving the bank in the future.

first lady's office?

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Lien-fu (江連福) said yesterday he would propose amending the Office of the President Organization Act (總統府組織法) to establish an office of the first lady, modeled after the role of the first lady in the US.

Chiang issued a press release yesterday afternoon saying he would propose setting up an office and hiring staffers to help future first ladies deal with public welfare and social issues.

Chiang said that since the 1960s, US first ladies have had their own office in the East Wing of the White House, adding that they can hold press conferences or arrange interviews with the media through the office.

However, Taiwanese law does not have similar regulations concerning the responsibilities of the first lady, Chiang said, adding that he had started seeking endorsement for his proposal.

Chiang represents Taichung County's third district. He was reelected on Jan. 12, but was indicted on Jan. 29 on charges of vote-buying. His case is pending in the Taichung District Court.

Additional reporting by Flora Wang

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