Taiwan finance minister resigns over election melee
(dpa) - Taiwan Finance Minister Ho Chih-chin tendered his resignation Thursday over a melee that saw supporters of a ruling party presidential candidate clashing with police.
"Being a member of the government, I must shoulder responsibility over last night's clash, which caused social disorder," Ho said at a news conference in Taipei. "For this, I have submitted my resignation to Premier Chang [Chun-Hsiung]."
His announcement came after supporters of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh grappled with police Wednesday night to try to stop them from taking four opposition lawmakers to safety.
The incident, the first violence in the run-up to the March 22 presidential election, took place after Ho accompanied the opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), lawmakers to Hsieh's campaign headquarters. The KMT politicians questioned whether the building was illegally occupied by Hsieh.
The building was leased to Hsieh by First Bank, which is a government-controlled bank supervised by Ho's Finance Ministry, but the opposition lawmakers suspected that the bank had allowed the DPP candidate to use the building free of charge.
Alleging influence peddling, the lawmakers demanded that Ho come with them to the building for an inspection. Supporters and aides there confronted the lawmakers and barred them from leaving the building, claiming illegal intrusion and theft.
Police later came to their rescue, resulting in the clash that saw a dozen supporters and aides being injured.
Ho said he felt sorry for the clash and, after some overnight contemplation, decided to resign.
Chang later said he accepted Ho's resignation because he did not think Ho should have gone with the KMT members to the building.
One of the KMT lawmakers, Fei Hung-tai, who led the so-called inspection, also resigned as the KMT whip in parliament after KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou said Fei's act was improper.
Ma, who was leading Hsieh in opinion polls, apologized twice Wednesday night to the public over the incident. He again apologized Thursday, saying lawmakers are not law enforcers in an attempt to dampen criticism that the KMT had provoked the violence.
But Hsieh still lashed out at Ma and his party, saying the incident proved the KMT, which holds the majority in parliament, is used to usurping power.
"How could they make the finance minister go to my campaign headquarters?" Hsieh asked. "How would we know if their intrusion was aimed at stealing our top campaign strategy plans?"
His party also ran front-page ads in local newspapers, attacking the KMT and Ma for harboring what the DPP called a dictator-like mindset and asking voters to vote against Ma.