Deputy Minister of the Interior Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇) yesterday rebutted accusations that his strongly criticized visit to former Non-Partisan Solidarity Union legislator Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) in Taichung Prison on Friday was politically motivated.
“I paid a visit to Yen simply because he is a friend. There was no political motivation behind the visit and I didn’t discuss elections or revisions to the Accounting Act [會計法] with him, nor did President Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] ask me to pass any messages to Yen,” Hsiao said in a telephone interview.
Hsiao said he was on an official trip to Greater Taichung on Friday when Yen Ching-piao’s son, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yen Kuan-hen (顏寬恒), who was accompanying him on the trip, invited him to visit his father in Taichung Prison.
“I agreed immediately [to the suggestion] without giving it too much thought. Since it was only 4pm, I took an hour’s leave to avoid attending to a personal matter on work time,” Hsiao said.
However, both KMT and Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers were quick to criticize the visit, saying that it was inappropriate for a deputy interior minister to visit a former legislator who is serving time for corruption, given the ongoing dispute over an amendment to the Accounting Act that would decriminalize certain uses of public funds by elected representatives if the monies were used for official business.
Passage of the amendment near midnight on May 31, shortly before the end of the legislative session, angered the public, forcing both the president and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to withdraw their support for the amendment. Ma apologized to the public and promised to have the amendment vetoed.
If the amendment had been signed by the president, Yen Ching-piao could have been released from prison.
Responding to criticism from lawmakers, Hsiao said that although his prison visit did not involve any illegal conduct he would reflect on its appropriateness.