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Taiwan's Control Yuan impeaches ex-Hualien official for media manipulation

Saga of corruption in Hualien continues with former Magistrate's Deputy Secretary General impeached for bribing local media

Control Yuan officials, June 4

Control Yuan officials, June 4 (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan’s Control Yuan completed a probe of Hsieh Kung-ping (謝公秉) on Tuesday (June 4), deciding to impeach the former Deputy Secretary General of the previous Hualien County Magistrate, Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁), for corrupt actions taken while in public office.

In a vote of 11 to 0, the Control Yuan members determined that Hseih was guilty of misusing public funds to pursue an unscrupulous campaign of media manipulation in Hualien, which involved offering bribes and a program of financial incentives for reporters and news networks to favorably promote the administration of Fu Kun-Chi.

Fu Kun-chi has a history of committing financial crimes, and many speculate he was also directly involved with the campaign to manipulate the local media with Hseih. The former magistrate was recently released from prison in April, after serving seven months of his original eight month sentence for crimes of stock market manipulation and insider trading, which he committed over a decade ago.

Along with Hseih, the former head of the Research and Evaluation Section of Hualien local county government, Lin Chin-hu (林金虎), was also impeached for his involvement in the corrupt campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion.

The Control Yuan determined that the actions of the government officials severely damaged public trust in the local government by creating a “propaganda apparatus” serving Fu’s administration.

Taiwan's Control Yuan impeaches ex-Hualien official for media manipulationTaiwan's Control Yuan impeaches ex-Hualien official for media manipulation
Hsieh Kung-ping (L) and Fu Kun-chi (R) (CNA photos)

Liberty Times reports that Hseih was impeached on 25 charges, which included unlawful payments made to 15 individuals at 14 different companies in 2017 and 2018, to influence voter opinion of the Fu government in Hualien.

The news organizations were: China Times, United Daily News, Keng Sheng Daily News, Formosa TV, Sanlih E-Television, Next TV, CtiTV, China Television Co., TVBS, Taiwan Television, ERA TV, ETTV News, Taiwan Indigenous TV and Hakka TV.

Fu Kun-chi, who has strong ties to the Kuomintang (KMT), is technically an independent. Jokingly dubbed the “King of Hualien,” he served as the county’s magistrate from December 2009 until September 2018, until he began serving his prison sentence.

Barely two months after Fu left office, his wife, KMT politician Hsu Chen-wei (徐榛蔚), was elected to replace him to serve in Hualien’s highest public office.

Taiwan's Control Yuan impeaches ex-Hualien official for media manipulation
Hsu Chen-wei (center right) with Fu Kun-chi (center) after his release from prison, April 18 (CNA photo)

In light of the aforementioned history of corruption plaguing the administration of Hualien, the central government in Taipei is reportedly keeping a close eye on government activities in the county.

The recent fire that occurred at Hualien’s Dongdamen Night Market early in the morning of June 3, just one week before KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu was scheduled to hold a rally, has caught the attention of some investigators, according to a local source.

Han is still planning to give a speech at the site of the burned out night market on June 8. As a result, the clean-up of the site has been expedited by the local government to prepare for his arrival.