Taichung City has had quite an eventful two weeks. First, alleged gang leader Weng Chi-nan (翁奇楠) was gunned down at his office on May 28. It was later discovered that four Taichung police officers — two of them senior-ranked — were present when Weng was attacked. The officers fled after the shooting either because they were embarrassed about hiding under a table instead of preventing the attack or apprehending the shooter, or perhaps because they wanted to avoid questions as to why they were in the company of a suspected gang leader. One theory is that they were playing mahjong.
Then, Taichung City Police chief Hu Mu-yuan (胡木源) resigned, ostensibly to take responsibility for the debacle, but which looked more like damage control in a city where the recent spate of violent crimes caps a decade in which gangs have operated freely.
This was not the first time people have been murdered and more often than not, Taichung residents have been caught in the crossfire.
Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) was quick to announce a war on gangsters. This was not the first time such a war has been declared and as in the past, assistance was requested from the National Police Administration, which sent 41 members of an elite commando force. What they will do is anybody’s guess; fighting organized crime is not a specialty of SWAT-type tactical units.
Hu seems especially determined to crackdown on organized crime. Each bullet that struck a victim last week, Hu said, also struck him.
Oh yes, it may also be pertinent to add that Hu is running for re-election in November.
All of this seems like a bad made-for-TV movie; that Hu is standing for re-election only makes matters worse. To whatever extent the former Taichung police chief should be held responsible for the events surrounding Weng’s killing, it is with Hu that the buck stops. After two terms in office and countless promises and deceptions, it is time for a regime change in Taichung, a city that deserves better.
This will not be easy. Hu is a seasoned politician with extensive political experience. Oxford-educated and a loyal member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Hu once headed the party propaganda office and served as deputy secretary-general. He also served as press secretary for the Presidential Office, Cabinet spokesperson, representative to the US and foreign affairs minister before being elected mayor of Taiwan’s third-largest city in 2001.
Since then, Hu has ranked among the most popular mayors in the country. Eloquent and charming, he always knows when to crack a joke or kiss a baby. He suffered a minor stroke in 2002 that attracted sympathy and left his basic motor functions slightly impaired. Sympathy also aided his popularity when his wife was seriously injured in a car accident in 2006.
Charisma does not guarantee good governance, however. Time and money have been wasted on pie-in-the-sky projects such as a branch of the Guggenheim Museum and an opera house, while infrastructure has suffered. Taichung’s MRT plans have languished for nearly a decade, even as systems have flourished in Taipei and Kaohsiung.
Crime, however, is in a class of its own. Statistics show that of the country’s cities, Taichung’s crime rate has topped the list for six consecutive years, slipping to second only last year. Given the obvious ineptitude — and quite possibly corruption — of police officials in that city, a thorough house cleaning is in order.
This process can only be truly effective, however, if it begins in the mayor’s office.
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