FEATURE: Three new ministers tapped: sources

PROVEN QUALITIES::Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung has shown adaptability, calmness under fire and efficient teamwork with Lai during his time as Cabinet spokesman

By Lee Hsin-fang, Lin Chia-tung and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with Staff writer

Thu, Jul 12, 2018 - Page 3

Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) has been tapped as the next minister of the interior, sources said.

High-ranking Cabinet officials had, at one point or another, backed Hsu to head the Ocean Affairs Council, Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Education for his legal expertise and proven ability to defend the administration’s policies in public.

Hsu’s rapport with Premier William Lai (賴清德) and popularity within the Democratic Party (DPP) are qualities that would promote cooperation among factions within the party.

Hsu has shown adaptability, composure when under fire and efficient teamwork with Lai during his time as a DPP lawmaker and Cabinet spokesman, which satisfied the administration.

As the administration’s designated fireman, Hsu stands in sharp contrast with Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), an academic. It is believed that Hsu would show more tact during political negotiations with lawmakers across the aisle.

Coming from a family that sold braised pork on rice, Hsu worked as a street vendor and school teacher. He studied law while working before becoming a eminent lawyer.

Hsu entered politics with the help of National Chung Hsing University Department of Law classmate Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), now Cabinet secretary-general, and was elected Taipei City councilor.

Hsu has also frequently appeared on political TV shows as a commentator.

Hsu was in October 2016 recruited to the Cabinet by then-premier Lin Chuan (林全), reportedly for his articulateness that he would later prove by offering concise explanations for the Cabinet’s policies at news conferences.

Hsu’s proven competence was the reason for why he was retained as Executive Yuan spokesman after Lai took office in September last year.

Hsu reportedly has many friends in the DPP and party members across factional lines owe him favors.

However, the complex duties conducted by the Ministry of the Interior — which is in charge of household registration, supervision of the police and overseeing construction and development programs — would put his political skills to the test.

Meanwhile, some people believe that Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau Director-General Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) has been appointed minister of justice due to the bureau’s increased efficiency in solving crimes under his watch.

Tsai’s transfer from the head prosecutor of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to bureau director-general happened during a severe shortage of investigators at the bureau due to the establishment of the Agency Against Corruption and the Institute of Forensic Medicine, a source said.

Tsai visited each of the bureau’s 25 field branches and holds the record for making the most visits to field branches among all bureau director-generals, the source said.

He spared no effort in addressing personnel shortages and endeavored to address funding issues at the bureau, the source said.

“We will not face cuts or be merged as long as we can deliver a good performance,” Tsai said.

According to his former colleagues, Tsai held himself to a very high standard and placed heavy emphasis on how efficiently the cases were handled.

“He was not afraid to point out mistakes, nor was he sparse with praise when deserved,” a colleague said.

As a former prosecutor, Tsai knew well the operating methods of drug kingpins, and he would often preside over cases personally, the source said.

Tsai cared about his investigators, and would often bring snacks — paid for out of his pocket — to the office for investigators working overtime, the source said.

His familiarity with the prosecutorial system allowed him to facilitate matters when investigators had problems with district prosecutors’ offices, the source said.

Since he took over as director-general, the bureau has seized tonnes of narcotics, an achievement that won him praise from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Finance Su Jain-rong (蘇建榮) is believed to be the DPP’s first choice for minister of finance in the planned Cabinet reshuffle.

Su, who has a bachelor’s degree from Soochow University’s Department of Economics, and doctorates in economics from National Chung Hsing University and the University of Pennsylvania, has extensive research experience in the areas of economic theory, taxation and administrative policy.

Su taught finance at National Taiwan University and still engages in part-time teaching.

While most people know Su from his tenure as head of Taipei’s Department of Finance under Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), his more noteworthy contribution was as an adviser to the pan-green camp through his work at the Taiwan Brain Trust, the New Frontier Foundation and the Thinking Taiwan Foundation.

Su started working for Taipei in 2014, under strong recommendation from the pan-green camp, to help the city with its efforts to reduce its debt burden.

Su was appointed deputy minister of finance in 2015, after which he was often called on to act as the ministry’s spokesperson. He was also put in charge of the treasury and acted as executive secretary for the national defense fund.

Su has years of experience in taxation and local area finances, and has two years of experience managing government-owned shares.

Observers have said that Su differs from typical politicians in that he is an introvert, but also frank and approachable.

Those familiar with him have said that he resembles a teacher in his composure, and that he does not go against his principles.

Additional reporting by Wu Chia-jung, Jake Chung and William Hetherington, Staff reporter, with Staff writers