Rival candidates sought the help of the courts yesterday amid allegations of financial impropriety and illegal land use by a Miaoli County official.
Miaoli County Council Speaker Chung Tung-chin (鍾東錦) filed a defamation lawsuit after critics of the Miaoli County commissioner candidate highlighted his criminal history, an aspect that the independent has embraced as much as it links him favorably to former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Hsieh Fu-hung (謝福弘), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) candidate for Miaoli County commissioner, said it is improper to compare Chung to Mandela, who was a prisoner of conscience in the fight against apartheid, and for social justice and democracy.
“Chung was in prison because he had violent temper and assaulted people, including using a watermelon knife to attack one person,” Hsieh said, adding that Chung has not been forthright about his past to fool people into voting for him.
At a rally last week, Chung’s campaign spokeswoman Chen Yi-hua (陳怡樺) compared Chung to Mandela, as both were former prison inmates.
“Mandela was imprisoned ... for 27 years. After he was released, he helped to abolish apartheid in South Africa, and advocated for democracy and equal rights,” Chen said. “If he had not been given a chance to start again, Mandela would not have become a great statesman admired around the world.”
Chung at events over the weekend said he “gladly accepts the comparison.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) on Tuesday said the comparison made Taiwan a laughing stock.
“This is not just a big joke in Taiwan, it has become an international joke,” Lo said.
DPP Legislator Hung Sun-han (洪申翰) said the comparison is an insult to Mandela, who was imprisoned for seeking equal rights.
“Chung served prison terms for killing a man, attempted murder, and has been accused of illegal gambling and gravel dredging,” Hung said. “This is far different than what Mandela achieved.”
Hsieh yesterday accused Chung of involvement in a Kunyu landfill project and investing in a gravel dredging company that has been accused of environmental negligence.
Chung abused his position as council speaker to suppress opposition and local protests to ram through approval of the Kunyu project, Hsieh said.
The DPP lawmakers yesterday presented aerial photographs allegedly showing plots of land owned by Chung.
The land was being used illegally, turning previously green pastures into landfills, they said.
Miaoli County Government staff were pressured by their superiors to not take action over the illegal land use, “as they were under orders by KMT Miaoli County Commissioner Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌),” Lo said, adding that “no one dares inspect the sites and levy fines.”
“Chung’s illegal use of the land has led to degradation and pollution,” Lo said. “Local residents have filed complaints, but the local government keeps ignoring them, while gangsters threaten them.”
“We demand that public prosecutors investigate the sites,” he said.
New Power Party Miaoli County commissioner candidate Sung Kuo-ting (宋國鼎) presented documents accusing Chung of taking out NT$40 million (US$1.24 million) in loans, in excess of the legal limit, with the land as collateral at a credit union affiliated with a farmers’ cooperative in Miaoli County’s Nanchuang Township (南庄).
Meanwhile, Chung said that his aides filed a defamation lawsuit against independent councilor Tseng Hsueh-wen (曾玟學), as Tseng had spoken on political talk shows about Chung being “a gangster figure, with a criminal record.”
Tseng contravened election regulations by impeding the election process to prevent a candidate from getting elected, Chung’s attorney said.
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A naval landing craft on Thursday sank near Kinmen County after wet weather and rough seas flooded its cabin, the Naval Fleet Command said. The vessel, called Landing Craft Mechanized 1326, had completed transport and replenishment missions in the county and was returning to Taiwan proper when surging waves flooded the cabin, the navy said in a statement. The craft’s five crew members tried to bail out the water to no avail, the Navy said. The landing craft eventually sank off Kinmen’s Liaoluo Bay (料羅灣) at 5:18pm, although all crew members rescued, it said, adding that the precise cause of the sinking