Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) settled a minor Cabinet reshuffle yesterday, bringing Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), an aide to People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), and Cyrus Chu (朱敬一), an academic known for his outspoken criticism of the government’s economic policies, into the Cabinet, as well as a replacement for outgoing Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良).
Lee, a professor of civil engineering at National Taiwan University, gained prominence in 1987 after he was brought in by Soong, then-Taiwan provincial governor, to handle flood prevention and water resources management.
His love life overtook his political career in 2009, when an extramarital affair with Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) led him to offer his resignation as deputy commissioner of Taipei County. During his time with the Taipei County government, Lee was often present when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) inspected hydraulic engineering projects.
Lee will replace Minister of the Public Construction Commission (PCC) Fan Liang-shiow (范良銹) and double as a minister without portfolio in the Cabinet office, Wu said.
Speaking by telephone, Lee said his priorities included river management, disaster prevention and land-use planning, as the PCC will be partly responsible for development after the government’s reconstruction plan is implemented next year.
Fan, 65, told reporters he was asked to see Wu a few days ago after he expressed his wish to end his 40 years of public service to spend more time with his family and hand over his responsibilities to a younger generation.
While Wu has asked Chu, an academician at Academia Sinica since 1998, to join the Cabinet, Chu has been traveling abroad and had yet to give final consent. He was scheduled to return home last night, Wu said.
Wu would not confirm whether Chu would replace Chang Chin-fu (張進福), minister without portfolio responsible for coordinating technology-related policies and executing the six flagship industries. Chang was appointed by former premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) to create momentum for development in the biotechnology, sophisticated energy, medical care, tourism and innovative culture sectors.
Chu, who has a doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan, recently resigned as chairman of the government-affiliated Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, a position he had held since July 2008.
Chu has often been consulted by Ma on economic issues and has published several newspaper articles critical of the government’s economic policies.
Meanwhile, Wu said Lee Yun-jie (李允傑), a professor of public administration at National Open University, would replace Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷) as National Youth Commission minister, while Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪), an attorney and consultant to Ma, would succeed Kao Su-po (高思博) as Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs minister.
Wang and Kao recently offered to resign amid accusations that some Cabinet members had refused to run in a legislative by-election.
Taipei Medical University president Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) has been tapped to succeed Yaung as Department of Health minister, the premier said.
Although there has been speculation that Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) would be replaced, Wu praised her performance and said she would remain in the Cabinet.
The handover ceremony for the new ministers will be held next Wednesday, Wu said.
Minister Without Portfolio Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) told the Taipei Times by telephone last night that he also wanted to step down because he was tired of the job. At press time, Wu’s office had yet to confirm whether it would accept the resignation
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The US, Japan and Australia conducted trilateral naval exercises in the South China Sea on Monday, the US Seventh Fleet announced yesterday. It was their fifth joint operations this year in the fleet’s area of operations, it said in a statement. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain joined the JS Kirisame of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Arunta. The Arunta’s commanding officer, Commander Troy Duggan, said that Australia was continuing to build on its already close relationship with Japan and the US. “This activity is a valuable and important opportunity for all three nations,”
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Seabed waste off the west coast is 1.5 times higher than the global average, with the mouth of the Tamsui River (淡水河) nearly 90 times dirtier, the environmental consultancy IndigoWaters (澄洋環境顧問) said yesterday. The firm in September last year began collaborating with local oceanographers on Taiwan’s first survey of seabed waste off the west coast, collecting 6,000 samples from near the mouths of eight rivers and conducting 215 inspections. Of the samples, 83.3 percent were found to contain trash, the group said. Based on the survey, every square kilometer of seabed had about 121,074 pieces of trash weighing 102kg, IndigoWaters chief executive Yen