Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-09-10 03:17 PM
He held a high-profile news conference shortly after his arrival at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from Malaysia around 7:30 p.m Tuesday.
Wang read a prepared statement which strongly attacked the claims of prosecutors accusing him of violating the law by trying to influence a judicial procedure.
“My determination to uphold the rule of law is as strong as Ma’s,” he said, accusing the prosecutors of abusing their power and breaking the law by using his absence from the country to launch unfounded claims. Wang said he had never asked prosecutors to do anything illegal.
“The reputation of my family has been destroyed beyond recovery by the allegations,” he said. “Does the government know about the dissatisfaction of the people? Does the government know about the people’s wish for judicial reform?”
Contrary to the predictions of most commentators, Wang did not announce his resignation from the KMT, his resignation from his position as speaker, or a bid to recall the president, an issue popular with supporters of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. Resigning from the KMT meant he would automatically also lose his seat as a lawmaker.
The KMT, which Ma chairs, will hold a disciplinary meeting about Wang Wednesday morning, but the speaker said he had not been invited. If the committee did ask him to appear, he would be happy to attend, he told reporters.
About 30 buses traveled up from several parts of the country, including his native region of Kaohsiung, to the airport. Estimates of the numbers of supporters present ranged from 1,000 to 3,000, reports said. Deputy speaker Hung Hsiu-chu, often mentioned as his possible successor, and KMT lawmaker Lee Ching-hua, who earlier Tuesday announced he was withdrawing a proposal for a nuclear referendum from legislative consideration, were among several lawmakers welcoming him at the airport before his news conference.
The apparent power struggle started last Friday, when prosecutors said top DPP lawmaker Ker Chien-ming had asked Wang to help him avoid an appeal against a non-guilty sentence for breach of trust in an embezzlement scandal. Wang reportedly called Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu, who later reportedly phoned back to say the prosecutors would not appeal.
Tseng resigned later Friday because he faced referral to the Control Yuan, the nation’s top government watchdog, though he maintained he had not pressured prosecutors. His resignation went into effect Tuesday, with his deputy, Chen Ming-tang, taking over as acting minister today.
Ma later called on Wang to return from the remote Malaysian island where he was attending his daughter’s wedding. At a news conference Sunday, the president slammed Wang and said there obviously had been influence peddling on his part.
The legislative speaker has a large following of lawmakers and grassroots supporters, which could make life difficult for Ma when he tries to pass vital legislation such as the service trade pact with China and the referendum about the fourth nuclear plant. The KMT also faces difficult elections on the local level in December 2014.
Lien, who serves as the party’s honorary chairman, said Ma should not have humiliated Wang the way he did. The speaker should receive basic respect, especially since he was staying overseas when the accusations first surfaced, Lien reportedly said while criticizing the president for his handling of the case.
Both Wang and Lien have been seen as KMT rivals for Ma. Lien preceded Ma as party chairman, while Wang lost a race against him in 2005.
The ruling party’s other honorary chairman, Wu Po-hsiung, reportedly spoke to Ma on the phone, but the contents of the conversation were not known. Lien wanted the president to handle the case with more circumspection because it could have such far-reaching consequences for the party, reports said. A spokesman for the former vice president said Wang should first be heard before he could be accused of illegal lobbying.
The Presidential Office rejected Lien’s criticisms.
“President Ma had no intention to humiliate Wang Jin-pyng, it was Wang Jin-pyng who first humiliated the judiciary,” said Lo Chih-chiang, the vice secretary general of the Presidential Office.
He said that if the credibility of the judiciary went bankrupt, the country would have no stability to speak of. The government had to defend the independence of the judicial system and condemn each attempt at influence peddling, Lo said.
The accusations against Wang provoked counterclaims that Ma had in the past also asked KMT officials to influence the judiciary on his behalf, and that prosecutors had obtained the information about the new scandal by illegally tapping the phones of Wang and Ker.
Lo denied that the president had once requested a key official to ask prosecutors not to file an appeal in a case alleging the misuse of special government funds by Ma when he was mayor of Taipei. Those involved denied the allegations while no evidence was ever presented, Lo said.
Government officials said they were ready for the eventuality that Wang would leave his post as speaker of the Legislative Yuan after 14 years in office. At present, his deputy is KMT lawmaker Hung Hsiu-chu, who is generally pictured as a staunch government supporter. The opposition DPP was considering boycotting her if she were chosen as Wang’s successor, reports said.
There was a possibility that a debate between Ma and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang about the service trade pact scheduled for Sunday September 15 might be canceled because of the political crisis, reports said.
Former President Lee Teng-hui criticized Ma for putting too many personal opinions into his comments about Wang. The legislative speaker has been seen as a close friend of the ex-president, under whose leadership he was first appointed deputy speaker before rising to the top position at the Legislature.
An opinion survey by cable station TVBS showed that 46 percent of the public did not approve of Ma’s handling of the influence-peddling accusations against Wang. Only 23 percent supported the president, according to the poll.
The poll showed that 34 percent agreed that Wang’s phone conversations amounted to influence peddling, while 28 percent said they didn’t and 38 percent said it was impossible to tell. Only 15 percent agreed that Ma’s tough action was motivated by the need to protect the rule of law, 29 percent saw a power struggle as the main reason, while more than 30 percent, the largest group, said both were behind the president’s behavior.
TVBS said it polled 848 Taiwanese citizens over 20 years of age about the scandal.