Bowing in front of TV cameras, Minister Without Portfolio Chu Yun-peng (朱雲鵬) yesterday apologized for skipping work to go out on dates during office hours.
Chu issued the apology after the latest issue of the Chinese-language weekly Next Magazine carried a story and photos of Chu and his girlfriend going out on dates on April 7 and April 10 during office hours.
Chu yesterday defended himself, saying he was always occupied with work during office hours and by meetings after work and on weekends, and that he was once so busy that he got sick and checked into hospital.
“But those should not be excuses [for going out on dates during working hours.] I apologize for the truth in the report,” Chu said.
He also apologized for the commotion he had caused.
Citing personal privacy, Chu declined to comment on whether his marriage had ended in divorce at the end of last year and whether he was having an affair with the woman in the photos, who the magazine alleged is 26 years younger than him.
“All citizens of the Republic of China, officials included, should have the right to a private life,” Chu said.
Chu dodged the question when asked if he had asked to be punished for not applying for a day off in advance, saying only that he had briefly spoken with Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) by phone.
Later yesterday, Executive Yuan Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said that Liu, after meeting with Chu in person yesterday and having listened to his side of story, “severely reprimanded Chu for his improper conduct,” for failing to show up for work without completing the necessary procedures to ask for the day off.
Liu demanded Chu not repeat the mistake, Su said.
“Ministers without portfolio should be an example to all civil servants,” Liu was quoted by Su as saying.
When asked for comment, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) lashed out at Chu for going out on dates during office hours.
“Every government chief has been making an extra effort amid the financial downturn ... You can go on dates on holidays, but asking for leave to go out on dates is just unacceptable,” she said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG