The Taipei District Court yesterday rejected a request by Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) for compensation of NT$1 million (US$35,836) from Taipei City Councilor Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強).
Lo, of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), had accused Hsieh of dodging his responsibility for handling Taiwanese tourists who were stranded in Japan in September 2018 by Typhoon Jebi.
Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠), who was director-general of the Osaka branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, committed suicide a week after his office was accused of indifference to the plight of Taiwanese stranded at Japan’s Kansai International Airport in the wake of the typhoon.
Criticism intensified after a report, which was later rebutted, that the Chinese embassy in Japan sent tour buses to pick up tourists held up at the airport.
Su left behind a suicide note, in which he said that he was deeply pained by the flood of criticism accusing his office of not doing enough to help the stranded Taiwanese.
Su died just one day before the heads of Taiwan’s six representative offices in Japan were scheduled to meet in Osaka to discuss how to revise the country’s emergency response protocols.
Hsieh flew to Osaka after learning of Su’s suicide and issued a news release lamenting the diplomat’s death.
Many Taiwanese compared what Taiwan’s Osaka office did to help tourists stranded at the airport with what the Chinese embassy did, placing staff at the office under tremendous pressure, Hsieh said at the time.
After Su’s death, Lo described Hsieh in a Facebook post as being “muddleheaded” and trying to shift the blame to civil servants, which drove the director-general to take his own life.
Lo later wrote on Facebook that it was Hsieh’s remarks that drove Su to kill himself.
The court’s summary division ruled that the main factor in Lo’s comments was whether Hsieh, as Taiwan’s representative in Japan, had shifted responsibility to Su’s office for the handling of the incident and whether that shift had led to Su’s suicide.
The court said Lo’s remarks were related to the public interest and he had good intentions, therefore they did not legally harm Hsieh’s reputation.
The ruling can still be appealed.
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