The Government Information Office (GIO) — a government department in operation for 65 years — will be dissolved on Sunday.
The GIO’s functions will be split between the Executive Yuan, a new ministry of culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of a government restructuring project which will see the Executive Yuan reduce its current 37 agencies to 29 in a bid to improve efficiency.
The dissolution of the GIO has not been welcomed by People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), both of whom served as head of the GIO under previous Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administrations.
Neither was present at a farewell assembly, but they voiced their disapproval at the plan in interviews for two recent books on the GIO.
Speaking about the restructuring, Soong was quoted saying: “I have to say with sincerity that the Republic of China (ROC) can continue to exist without diplomacy, but it cannot live one day without an international publicity campaign.”
Soong said he was “very much opposed” to the policy to fold the GIO into the foreign ministry and “even more opposed” to the disbandment of the GIO.
Under the plan, GIO departments responsible for broadcasting, motion pictures and publications will be part of the ministry of culture, the international information department will fall under the control of the foreign ministry and the GIO’s domestic information department will be launched as a new service subordinate to the Executive Yuan.
Arguing in favor of maintaining the GIO, Soong said the organization differed from the foreign ministry and that diplomats are tasked to uphold diplomacy, while information officers promote national values both at home and overseas. Hu said he failed to see the need for GIO restructuring because the organization generates good results.
At the farewell assembly, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) encouraged GIO employees to continue to serve the country after they relocate to different agencies.
The GIO was established in 1947 in Nanjing before the then-KMT regime was forced to flee in 1949.
Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) said he could have ended up working at the GIO because he once ranked highly in a national exam for international information officers while working at a bank in his youth, however he said he chose to stay in the financial sector.
GIO Minister Philip Yang (楊永明) said the government agency has been witness to key moments in the country’s history including Taiwan’s withdrawal from the UN in 1971, the severance of diplomatic relations with the US in 1978, the lifting of martial law in 1987 and the first presidential election in 1996.
“In the past 65 years, GIO workers have stuck to their positions. They were never absent from any critical moment of the nation. Although we will see the GIO fade into history on May 20, GIO workers will continue the glory of the GIO in their new positions,” Yang said.