Taipei, March 6 (CNA) Ou Chin-der, chairman and chief executive officer of Taiwan High Speed Rail Co. (THSRC), quit his chairmanship late Wednesday amid criticism over the company's performance and his own role in a political campaign ahead of the Taipei mayoral election. In an unusual move, Ou sent a letter by fax to the Association of Chinese Aviation Industry Development (ACAID), a government-sponsored foundation, to resign as its representative on the THSRC board of directors. The ACAID is a major shareholder of the high-speed rail operator. By quitting his job as the ACAID-appointed board member, Ou effectively resigned as chairman of the board. Ou is now a caretaker CEO and would step down as soon as the board of directors decides on a replacement, according to Ted Chia, a THSRC spokesman. Ou, 69, quit just hours before he was scheduled to appear before a Legislative committee. Lawmakers are expected to grill him on high-speed rail price hikes and, above all, his role as chief adviser to the campaign of Sean Lien, who announced his bid for Taipei mayor last month. Ou's abrupt departure is seen as an embarrassment to Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih, who now has to face questions in the Legislative Yuan. Yeh, who has said publicly that Ou should reconsider his decision to double as Lien's adviser, said he learned about Ou's resignation through other officials. Ou did not respond to press inquiries overnight. He became THSRC chairman more than four years ago and was deputy mayor of Taipei from 1998 to 2004.
The THSRC spokesman denied any connections between Ou's resignation and his role in the Lien campaign. He reiterated that Ou's role as a consultant to Lien -- not a campaign manager -- has not interfered with his job as THSRC chairman. The mayoral election will be held in late November. Chia, the spokesman, quoted Ou as saying that he resigned to take responsibility for the controversy over high-speed rail operations, which experienced several disruptions of service over the past year, affecting tens of thousands of passengers. The company also came under fire for its decision to impose fare hikes last October by an average of 9.69 percent. (By Wang Shu-fen, Elizabeth Hsu and Lee Hsin-Yin)