Wed, Aug 07, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Han urges neutrality amid recall drive

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu tells reporters in Kaohsiung yesterday that civil servants must uphold administrative neutrality during work hours.

Photo: Wang Jung-hsiang, Taipei Times

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) yesterday said that civil servants must remain politically neutral during work hours, following allegations that the Kaohsiung City Government banned its employees from joining any recall petitions.

According to leaked meeting minutes obtained by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times), city officials asked every civil servant present if they had received any recall petition documents and instructed them not to take part.

They were also told not to post any inappropriate comments on Facebook during work hours, such as remarks that would breach the government’s principle of political neutrality, the newspaper reported.

The document raised concerns over possible government interference, as a petition to recall Han launched in June by Citizens Mowing Action and We Care Kaohsiung is still gathering signatures.

We Care Kaohsiung has called Han — who is to represent the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in next year’s presidential election — a “runaway mayor” ready to abandon Kaohsiung to become president.

The city government said that Han respects residents’ right to recall politicians, but as the mayor has previously said, such petitions must adhere to the law.

The meeting was held to remind staff to remain politically neutral at work after receiving a report that certain staffers were distributing recall petitions and making political comments online during work hours, it said.

The Public Servants’ Administrative Neutrality Act (公務人員行政中立法) stipulates that civil servants may not participate in political activities while at work, it said.

In addition, the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) bans civil servants from initiating a recall petition, it added.

“I have repeatedly told city employees to remain politically neutral at work, but in their free time they can take any political stance — that is without a doubt,” Han said when asked about the leaked minutes.

Although the act bans civil servants from initiating a recall petition, it allows them to sign one, We Care Kaohsiung said.

“Han’s team is asking its employees not to sign any recall petition” apparently in an attempt to police their thought, it said, adding that the petition is not the first recall campaign targeting Han, as he has been “fooling around” in politics for more than two decades.

In 1994, nearly 378,000 residents of then-Taipei County voted to recall Han, who was representing the county as a legislator, it said.

Knowing that residents would not be able to reach the unreasonably high recall threshold at the time, Han did not even offer a defense against the recall in the election notice, it said.

If a campaign to recall Han could garner nearly 400,000 votes back then, getting 500,000 votes this time is possible, it said, adding that Han is now much more well-known and disliked.

Additional reporting by Wang Jung-hsiang

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