Wed, Dec 18, 2019 - Page 3 News List

City councilor says DPP funding online influence operations

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

From left, Ye Yuan-zhi, spokesman of the campaign office of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, the Chinese Natioanlist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate; office spokeswoman Anne Wang; KMT Taipei City Councilor Yu Shu-hui; and two other KMT Taipei city councilors chant a slogan at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has allegedly funded online influence campaigns organized by two companies linked to Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如), a former campaign aide of Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Yu Shu-hui (游淑慧) said yesterday.

The central and local governments have since 2016 paid two companies linked to Yang nearly NT$29 million (US$959,947 at the current exchange rate) to conduct online influence campaigns for the DPP, Yu told a news conference at KMT headquarters in Taipei organized by the campaign office of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the KMT’s candidate in the Jan. 11 presidential election.

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office earlier this month charged Yang after she posted online comments about the Osaka branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Japan days before Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠), then secretary-general of the branch, committed suicide.

Consulting firm Yishi (易始), of which Yang is a director, has since 2016 been hired by the central and local governments for 11 projects totaling NT$21 million, Yu said.

Pinyuan (品原), another consulting firm that shares an address with and has a nearly identical telephone number as Yishi, has undertaken multiple projects for the Taipei City Government and the Pingtung County Government since 2016 for a total of about NT$8 million, she said.

Most of the projects given to the two companies were awarded through closed tenders, Yu said, urging the involved government agencies to clarify if it has been funding Yang.

The administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been using government resources to pay for a mudslinging campaign against the KMT’s presidential candidate, Han’s campaign spokesman Ye Yuan-chih (葉元之) said.

“This is a war between the prince and the beggar,” he said.

At a rally at the headquarters later yesterday, Han called for a more thorough investigation into Yang’s funding and urged her to testify against her “coconspirators.”

Prosecutors owe the public an explanation for the death of an outstanding diplomat, he said.

“I beg all Taiwanese to stop this kind of online murder,” Han said. “I hope all Taiwanese will help look for more Yang Hui-jus.”

Pingtung County Department of Agriculture Director-General Huang Kuo-jung (黃國榮) said that the county government has only hired Pinyuan for two projects totaling NT$2.1 million.

Both projects involved monitoring the media and evaluating public reception of government policies, he said, adding that the bidding process for the projects was open.

Huang said that he was unaware Yang might be linked to Pinyuan, as she is neither the general manager nor a contact person for the firm.

Taipei Department of Information and Tourism Director Liu Yi-ting (劉奕霆) said that the city government followed the appropriate procedure when hiring Pinyuan.

If the city government has been paying companies to conduct online influence campaigns, “why was Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) the subject of so much criticism after the 2017 Taipei Summer Universiade?” Liu asked.

Additional reporting by Hou Cheng-hsu and CNA

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