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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times The continuing saga of Ann Kao

The continuing saga of Ann Kao

Hsinchu Mayor Ann Kao (高虹安) has been under the political spotlight this week as new allegations of ethical misconduct continued to surface.

During her election campaign last year, Kao, a former Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) legislator-at-large, was accused of receiving paid leave from the Institute for Information Industry (III) while studying abroad and partly plagiarizing published III-funded studies she coauthored into her doctoral dissertation.

Kao’s legislative assistants also accused her of payroll fraud by forcing them to “donate” part of their salaries and overtime pay to a common fund, which was allegedly later used by Kao. She was indicted last month on charges of misusing public funds and making public officials write false entries in public documents.

Scandals began surfacing when Kao visited Japan on Sept. 4, after the city government suddenly announced personnel changes, involving Hsinchu deputy mayor Tsai Li-ching (蔡麗清), Hsinchu Cultural Affairs Bureau director Chien Kang-ming (錢康明), who resigned on Sept. 11, and Shih Shu-ting (施淑婷), who became head of the department of civil affairs.

After Kao reportedly asked Tsai and Chien “to resign,” over the following days, city councilors said Kao had been driving luxury vehicles and living in a property developer-owned apartment costing more than NT$50 million (US$1.57 million). Shih, also a TPP member, is the owner of one of the vehicles; she failed to declare the assets of her husband, a property developer who donated to Kao.

On Sept. 11, Chien hinted online that Kao’s “good friend” — referring to her boyfriend Lee Chung-ting (李忠庭) — had meddled in municipal affairs, including New Year’s Eve celebration plans and asking Chien to resign, yet Lee issued a statement the same day denying Chien’s claim, arguing that he rented the apartment at a reasonable market price.

Kao and Lee denied the recent allegations, but Kao on Friday apologized for the controversies and said that all city government officials should not interact with Lee in any way, or they will face punishment — seemingly implying that Lee had been “talking” to officials.

The allegations have raised questions about Kao’s ethics, including her ability to manage conflicts of interest and separating her public and private affairs, sparking discussions about impacts on the TPP and the reputation of its chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲).

In last year’s mayoral election, Ko and independent presidential candidate and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) endorsed Kao; the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is also widely believed to have secretly endorsed her, as it did not strongly back its own candidate, Lin Keng-jen (林耕仁), when he made accusations against Kao; the head of Lin’s support group even urged voters to vote for Kao to “remove the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from power.”

After Kao’s indictment, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) showed his support, saying he believes the law will prove her innocence; Gou said the judiciary should not be used for political suppression. Ko said he believes Kao did not have corrupt intent.

While the KMT and Chu have called for a “non-green” alliance, aiming to work with the TPP and alienate Gou, to “remove the DPP from power” in next year’s presidential election, the TPP and Ko have prided themselves on bringing a “new political paradigm” that values public over individual or party interests and aims to build a government “free from corruption.”

The gap between Hsinchu voters’ high expectations for Kao as a “refreshing” political figure and her disappointing performance and controversies might serve as a warning of the risky consequences of a coalition founded with the sole goal of “removing the DPP from power.”

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/09/17

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