Tzu Chi opens aid network
One of the nation’s biggest charity organizations — the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation — has opened an emergency aid network to help disadvantaged people during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays. Foundation workers said families in crisis, particularly the unemployed, were welcome to contact the group’s service centers if they are facing difficulties as the Lunar New Year approaches. In an indication of the nation’s deteriorating economic environment, they said, Tzu Chi’s Taipei branch one day received 17 telephone calls from people seeking monetary assistance — an unusually high number. Tzu Chi workers urged the public to lead a more frugal life and avoid committing crime, even in times of desperation, as they try to ride out the recession.
Screening to be tightened
Screening of applications for visits to China from civil servants will be tightened in the wake of the arrest of a Presidential Office staffer for allegedly spying for China, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said on Thursday. Lai made the remarks after Wang Ren-bing (王仁炳), a senior specialist at the Presidential Office, was detained for allegedly handing over classified documents between March and April to his friend Chen Pin-jen (陳品仁), who then gave them to Chinese intelligence officers. Chen, who formerly served as an assistant to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟), has also been detained in the same case. Lai said the government’s policy of promoting civilian exchanges and allowing civil servants to make sightseeing trips to China remained unchanged, but relevant government agencies would strengthen coordination and step up screening of applications from civil servants to make trips to China, particularly those involved in sensitive areas.
DPP claims host faces axe
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators yesterday claimed that TV station SET-TV is contemplating dropping popular political talk show host Cheng Hung-yi (鄭弘儀) after coming under political pressure. Citing media reports, DPP Legislator Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) told a press conference yesterday that SET-TV is planning to dismiss Cheng and drop his daily political talk show program Ta Hua Hsin Wen (大話新聞) after the Lunar New Year holidays because of pressure from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). The talk show is known for its pro-localization stance and in recent months has harshly criticized the KMT administration’s policies. Wang said he had heard that the KMT had joined forces with the Chinese Communist Party to get rid of Cheng and his program by using political and commercial pressure. When asked for a response, Cheng yesterday told reporters he had no comment to make. SET-TV also had no comment.
Wei won't run in by-election
Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖), director of Cape No. 7 (海角七號), is not interested in running for a seat in the Legislative Yuan, Wei’s aide said yesterday. Huang Shih-ting (黃詩婷) said Wei was not interested in politics and has never taken part in any kind of political activity and therefore would not consider being recruited by the Democratic Progressive Party. A by-election will be held in late March to fill the vacancy left by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Diane Lee (李慶安), who resigned earlier this month as a result of a dual citizenship controversy.