Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) yesterday said he would consider pressing charges against New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) for trying to influence the presidential election by spreading false information about him, unless Huang presented his allegations to prosecutors.
Huang on Friday said that Han, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, and his wife, Lee Chia-fen (李佳芬), were involved in illegal gravel excavation along a bank of the Jhuoshui River (濁水溪) in Yunlin County.
Between 1998 and 2005, Da-tong Gravel Co (大通砂石行), owned by Lee’s father and former Yunlin City councilor, Lee Jih-kuei (李日貴), was fined multiple times for illegally occupying public land and storing gravel in the area, Huang said.
Lee Jih-kuei’s business benefited greatly from a NT$6.8 million (US$222,856 at the current exchange rate) embankment construction that the government approved in 1998 after Han, then a lawmaker, held a series of meetings with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Yunlin County Government about the project, Huang said.
Huang called on Han to explain whether he improperly used his influence.
Asked about the allegations, Han told reporters in Kaohsiung that Huang should reach out to prosecutors.
“If Huang does not bring the case to prosecutors, I would consider pressing charges against him tomorrow for trying to make a candidate lose an election,” he said, referring to a provision in the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) that bans individuals from spreading false information to influence elections.
“Since last month, I have been unfairly accused of supporting Chinese spies, hiking housing prices, evading taxes and now illegally excavating gravel,” he said.
“The campaigns for next year’s presidential and legislative elections are the dirtiest Taiwan has seen in recent decades,” he said, urging members of the public to vote for a candidate who runs their election campaign with integrity.
Huang’s description of the gravel excavation case appears to be “self-contradictory,” he said, adding that his campaign team has already offered explanations about the gravel business.
Earlier yesterday, Han adviser Cheng Chao-hsin (鄭照新) said the legality of the excavation is not relevant, as regulations on the industry were incomplete at the time.
“In the early days, many gravel companies excavated [gravel] directly from the center of the riverbed,” he told a news conference at the KMT headquarters.
Asked about a government record provided by Huang showing that the company was fined NT$30,000 for illegal excavation in 1999, Cheng said that the firm did pay “compensation” to the government during a transitional period for new legislation.
“Calling it illegal occupation of public land is a bit excessive,” he said, adding that all legal issues have been resolved.
The embankment project was proposed because many local residents wanted it to improve safety, Han’s spokesman Ye Yuan-zhi (葉元之) said.
Huang should immediately apologize for spreading rumors about Han and clarify the matter, or Han’s team would consider pressing charges against him, attorney Yeh Ching-yuan (葉慶元) said.
Huang said he would not be intimidated by threats.
“I would urge Han to come out and face the truth, instead of hiding behind his attorney and trying to distract the public from key questions,” he said. “This is not how a presidential candidate should handle the situation.”
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