Taiwanese billionaire Terry Gou (郭台銘) emerged as the winning bidder for an old briefcase auctioned online by former Department of Health minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) to help raise funds for people who cannot afford to pay their health insurance premiums.
Gou, chairman of the world’s largest electronics contract maker, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, met Yaung at a public ceremony held at National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health yesterday to finalize the deal.
Yaung, who used the briefcase during his 18-month stint as health minister, autographed it and wrote the Chinese characters for gratitude on it.
Gou wrote on the briefcase: “A bag filled with courage and love.”
Yaung, who stepped down as minister last week, displayed a receipt for NT$500,000 (US$17,000), which he had transferred into an account created by the Bureau of National Health Insurance for donations to help the underprivileged pay their insurance premiums.
Prior to the auction, Yaung said that he would match the winning bid with a personal donation of his own, with the cap set at NT$500,000.
Gou handed Yaung a receipt showing that he paid NT$5,000,900 as the winning bidder in the auction.
However, Gou said he would not keep the briefcase.
“I paid for the right to write five characters on the bag and show my admiration for Yaung’s courage in defending his health policy and his love for the underprivileged,” Gou said.
Gou said this was the second time he had met Yaung. Their first encounter occurred shortly after Yaung took office as health minister in August 2009, when Yaung invited major corporations, including Gou’s, to join the campaign against A(H1N1), also known as swine flu.
“I was impressed by Yaung’s down-to-earth working style, particularly his determination to try and reform of our national health insurance system,” Gou said, adding that he hoped to see other Cabinet officials follow his example.
Gou said he decided to complete the auction deal in public mainly because he hoped Yaung’s act of charity would inspire more people to help those who are less well off.
Yaung said he bought the briefcase five years ago for NT$3,000 and he expected to sell it online for about NT$5,000.
The bidding started at NT$1,000 on Feb. 1 and hovered around NT$68,888 as of Feb. 4. After Yaung disclosed on Thursday that he had filed complaints against seven TV pundits over what he called their spreading of rumors about the H1N1 vaccine, the bidding skyrocketed.
The winning bid of NT$5,000,900 was the highest on the Taiwan Yahoo charity auction Web site since its launch in 2002.
The sum of NT$5,500,900 was the largest single donation the Bureau of National Health Insurance has ever received.