Transportation minister denies birthday party allegations
Central News Agency
2014-01-16 09:26 PM
Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Taiwan's Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih said Thursday that there was never a lavish banquet thrown for him on his birthday by a cellphone company executive, as alleged by a lawmaker earlier this week. Legislator Alex Tsai of the ruling party Kuomintang has accused Yeh of accepting a lavish banquet given by Paul Lin, chairman of Senao International Co., on his birthday. Senao is the largest cellular phone distributor in Taiwan. Yeh called the allegations "spectacular," using the same term with which Tsai described Yeh's interaction with Lin in a Facebook post Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Yeh explained at a regular Cabinet meeting that he was invited by Chiang Shou-ping, a member of the KMT Central Standing Committee, and some friends to a mountain climbing trip on Jan. 5 and later had a modest meal together at a farmhouse-turned-restaurant instead of a banquet. He said he only knew then that Chiang wanted to throw a birthday party for him. The lawmaker also accused Yeh of applying pressure on Chunghwa Telecom Chairman Lee Yen-sung in mid-2013 to buy shares of Senao, a listed company and a subsidiary of Chunghwa Telecom, at a high price. But Yeh said as the ministry is the largest shareholder of Chunghwa Telecom, he has coordinated disputes between Senao and Chunghwa Telecom over different logistics strategies. He noted that Chunghwa Telecom owns less than 30 percent of the shares in Senao, while the latter is the sole agent of Chunghwa Telecom. Yeh said he has suggested Chunghwa Telecom increase its shares in Senao out of consideration for good corporate governance and to help solve the standoff between the two companies, but he has never interfered in follow-up communications. Yeh also denied that he had forced Chunghwa Telecom Chairman Lee Yen-sung to resign because Lee would not comply with his request to buy Senao shares at a high price. Lee will step down later this month only because of his age, Yeh said. Asked by reporters if he will leave his post over the controversy that has erupted in the wake of Tsai's allegations, Yeh said the matter will be "left for the premier and the president to decide." Yeh made the remarks at a news conference held in the afternoon. At the Cabinet meeting, Yeh apologized for the controversy surrounding the birthday party. According to Executive Yuan spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen, Yeh apologized for causing trouble to the administrative team, and said he will watch his behavior more carefully. "He said that he will be doubly cautious in his words and deeds, and will not cause trouble to the administrative team again," Cheng said. Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Yeh's explanation should help shed light on the matter, but he cautioned Yeh that the public has high "expectations of Cabinet members and they should be careful with their deeds, words and friends they associate with, so as not to leave room for suspicion." Meanwhile, Legislator Tsai said Thursday that the venue of the birthday party was a private place that has housed many cultural treasures and artifacts, not a simple farmhouse. Tsai said that according to Tu Yuan-kuang, president of Chunghwa Telecom's Northern Taiwan Business Group, the gathering was initiated by Lin, and Chiang later invited Yeh. The legislator said that Chiang is the supervisor of Senao while Tu is a board member. Also present were the chairmen of Chunhua Post Co., China Airlines and GreTai Securities Market, according to Yeh, questioning Lin's "wide connections." Tsai said that such a mingling of government officials and businessmen is taboo, and added that Senao's chairman tried to appeal to the minister for his own interests, and the minister should have avoided such contacts. (By Wang Shu-fen, Zoe Wei, Esme Jiang, Chen Wei-ting and Lilian Wu)
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