Chang Chia-juch resignation accepted ‘with reluctance’

Minister of Economics Chang Chia-juch offered his resignation to the Executive Yuan last Thursday, citing obstruction by members of the opposition and constant criticism of his ministry’s efforts following the July 31 explosions in Kaohsiung that killed 30 and injured more than 300. Premier Jiang Yi-huah held off approving Chang’s resignation as he encouraged the minister to ‘bite the bullet’ and stay on to oversee ongoing projects to rebuild the section of the city damaged in the blasts. After days of cajoling and trying to persuade Chang not to leave his post, Jiang finally agreed to accept his resignation ‘with reluctance’ Sunday.

Chang appeared at the Legislative Yuan Thursday to address several committees in a joint meeting on proposed legislation for the Free Economic Pilot Zones (FEPZs). Questioning in the session quickly turned to the Kaohsiung blasts and who was to be held responsible and how recovery work was to be carried out. Chang was criticized for attempting to carry on discussions of the FEPZs on the seventh day after the explosions, a key point in the seven-week period observed in Buddhist death ceremonies. Several legislators accused Chang of being cold-blooded and shedding neither blood nor tears for the victims. Saying that he felt unbearably humiliated by the comments, Chang drew up his resignation that evening.

Jiang and Vice Premier Mao Chih-kuo both pleaded with Chang to reconsider his decision and remain on duty in the ministry, but Chang felt he had had enough and rebuffed all efforts to convince him to stay. After three days of phone calls and personal visits , Jiang finally agreed to accept Chang’s resignation.

The search for a replacement for Chang is wide open as the most logical candidate, Vice-minister Woody Duh, also said he was stepping down on the same day as Chang. Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun notes that Jiang will begin interviewing prospective candidates for the MOE posts as soon as possible. In the meantime, the MOE and other relevant ministries will be working to oversee recovery efforts in Kaohsiung and looking into ways to ensure safety and security in the petrochemical industry in Taiwan.