Controversy engulfed the Taipei City Government’s Department of Cultural Affairs yesterday as former commissioner Liu Wei-gong (劉維公) handed in his resignation as chief executive of the city’s World Design Capital project office.
Taipei was awarded the event under the watch of former mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), with Hau appointing Liu as director of the office responsible for the project prior to the inauguration of independent Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲).
Liu became mired in controversy yesterday, when local media reports said that he had called the French Institute in Taiwan last week to demand a report on proposed French participation in the event.
The French Institute then reportedly called the mayor’s office to confirm that Liu was still responsible for the project, drawing the ire of the mayor’s team at Liu’s “shamelessness” when they discovered he was still head of the project office.
“When the reins of the city government were handed over, we discovered that there was a complete failure to turn this particular project over,” Ko said yesterday, calling the World Design Capital “an extremely important work of the Taipei municipal government.”
In response to the controversy, Liu announced his resignation from the office.
“On all job-related arrangements, I completely respect the new mayor and do not have any desire to remain in my post,” Liu said.
He called the controversy “a huge misunderstanding,” adding that he provided a full explanation of the World Design Capital project to Ko’s transition team before resigning as commissioner. He also rejected claims that he had called the French Institute to demand a report.
New Cultural Affairs Commissioner Ni Chung-hua (倪重華) yesterday morning declined to answer reporters’ questions about the World Design Capital project, saying he had yet to be briefed.
Later yesterday at an official news conference, he expressed regret to Liu over the controversy, adding that he had known Liu for years and believed that Liu had not made the reported call to the French Institute.
Meanwhile, separately, controversy over the Wenmeng Building (文萌樓) continued, as the Department of Cultural Affairs required revisions to a proposed preservation plan instead of rejecting the plan outright.
The former brothel in the capital’s Datong District (大同) was designated as a historical site in 2006 for its role as a center of resistance against the municipality’s abolition of prostitution in the 1990s.
Controversy over the building’s future erupted after its new owners sought to evict the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters activist group that is headquartered there.
Last fall, the municipal government under then-mayor Hau fined the owners for failing to present a viable site preservation plan and promised to begin appropriating the building, while at the same time removing the building from urban renewal plans.
The Ko administration has taken a different stance on the building’s future, with Ni yesterday saying that the department is still considering whether to appropriate the building or include it in urban renewal plans.
While outright rejection of the ownership preservation plan would have led to the site’s appropriation, under yesterday’s decision, the owners have until March 10 to submit a revised plan.
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