Thu, Dec 05, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Minister denies funding Yang’s ‘Internet army’

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je talks to reporters in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The Ministry of the Interior does not run an “Internet army” or provide funding for such activities, Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said yesterday in response to reporters’ questions about the scandal surrounding Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如).

Yang has been accused of paying members of an “Internet army” NT$10,000 a month to post on popular social media platforms in an attempt to influence public opinion.

Yang and a man surnmed Tsai (蔡), who used the same Internet Protocol address as Yang, have also been accused of insulting a public official.

Asked about his relationship with Yang after a photograph surfaced showing the two together, Hsu said that he and Yang had worked in the media and knew each other, but that he had not talked to her since becoming minister.

Working in the media, he often met members of both the pan-blue and pan-green camps, including Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials, he said.

“It’s meaningless to try to concoct some speculation based on one photograph,” Hsu said.

In response to accusations by the KMT that Hsu has close links with Yang, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) headquarters said in a statement that Yang had no connection to the DPP and condemned the KMT for deliberately trying to link the two.

“The DPP fully supports the judicial investigation into this case and if the defendant is found to have broken the law, then she must bear the legal responsibility,” the statement said.

DPP Deputy Secretary-General Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) said the accusation that Yang is running a DPP Internet army was baseless, adding that many DPP officials had been among her victims.

“People in DPP’s central office, including Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), Secretary-General Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉) and myself have been victims of Yang’s online bullying,” Lin said.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) claimed that Yang could not have paid the alleged “Internet army” members by herself and “there must be someone paying from above.”

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Monday accused Yang, who was a Web manager for the 2008 presidential campaign of then-DPP candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), of posting an article on Sept. 6 last year defending Representative to Japan Hsieh and blaming the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Japan’s Osaka branch for not helping Taiwanese stranded at Kansai International Airport after it was shut down due to Typhoon Jebi on Sept. 4 last year.

Then-Osaka branch director-general Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠) committed suicide eight days after the article was posted, leading to speculation that his death might have been linked to the criticism.

Ko yesterday said that he believes Hsieh could have been telling the truth when he said he was not responsible for the posting, because he knows that Hsieh has hardly dealt with domestic issues since leaving for Japan.

“So I have to take responsibility for Yang Hui-ju’s case?” Hsieh wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.

When asked about Yang’s case possibly being linked with the DPP, Ko said that when he asked the DPP who was responsible for political pundit Wu Hsiang-hui (吳祥輝) inviting US author Ethan Gutmann to visit Taiwan last year and accuse Ko of being involved in organ harvesting in China, the party said that “it had nothing to do with them.”

“Whenever something like this occurs, everyone is good at distancing themselves from it,” Ko said.

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