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Taiwan Tourism Bureau head demoted amid COVID-19 controversy

Chou Yung-hui

Chou Yung-hui (CNA photo)

Chou Yung-hui (周永暉), director-general of the Tourism Bureau, has been demoted amid a controversy involving a high-ranking bureau official, whose misconduct led to one of his colleagues becoming infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus disease.

Chou will now serve as a counselor at the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC), MOTC Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) told reporters Sunday.

The controversy involves a high-ranking official at the Tourism Bureau, who asked a staffer working at a Taoyuan International Airport visitor information center to meet and accompany his son, who was returning from the Philippines, while the son was waiting to be picked up by the official, according to the bureau.

The official's son, who is in his 20s, was later confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, which he likely passed on to the staffer while they had coffee together at the airport, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

Quarantine regulations already in place at that time require everyone returning from overseas to go directly home and self quarantine for 14 days.

The staffer then infected his five-year-old son, resulting in his kindergarten being shut down for 14 days, though none of the teachers or classmates have been reportedly infected, the CECC said.

The official, who is under investigation for abuse of his position and violating other bureau rules, has been issued a major demerit and demoted, according to the Tourism Bureau.

Lin told reporters on Sunday that Chou asked for necessary punitive action to be taken after the controversy came to light.

As the Tourism Bureau has failed to properly supervise its staff, Chou was transferred to another position, Lin said.

Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰), a deputy director-general at the Tourism Bureau, will now serve as acting director-general.

In a statement issued Sunday, Chou said that he believes the acts of "misappropriating public resources, using one's privilege and withholding information" seen in the controversy have nothing to do with him, adding that he has adhered to proper procedures and did what was required of him as the incident unfolded.

Nonetheless, he completely respects his supervisor's decisions on the matter, he said.

Chou also said in the statement that he hopes discussion of the incident can end, as the Tourism Bureau has a lot on its plate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I hope everyone can let the employees at the Tourism Bureau focus on helping businesses with disease prevention measures and bailout measures," since the pandemic has devastated the tourism industry, he said.