Taiwan official under fire for building museum for new president

A Taiwan official has come under fire for planning to build a pricey museum dedicated to President Ma Ying-jeou, barely two weeks after Ma's inauguration, dpa reported.

Liu Cheng-hung, commissioner of the Miaoli County, in west Taiwan, has allocated 50 million Taiwan dollars (1.6 million US dollars) to build the museum in Tonghsiao Township, the Taipei Times reported.

The museum, called Ma Fen Guan (Ma Struggle Museum), will trace Ma's path to the top and display Ma memorabilia, including Ma's school book, school uniforms and childhood photos.

The museum will be located near the Ma Village, a village whose residents are all surnamed Ma but are not related to Ma Ying-jeou, whose family never lived there.

Ma, 57, was born in Hong Kong as his parents were fleeing China to Taiwan after mainland China fell to the Communists in 1949. As Ma moved up the political ladder, he has been visiting the Ma Village once or twice a year as the villagers regard him as one of them.

Liu has already allocated 170 million Taiwan dollars (5.3 million US dollars) to develop the Ma Village into a tourist attraction.

Now he wants to build the Ma museum to further boost Maioli county's tourism industry.

Commissioner Liu claimed that building the Ma Struggle Museum is to use Ma's popularity to turn Miaoli into a tourist attraction, the Taipei Times said, but many Taiwanese and the opposition party DPP think Liu wants to curry favor with Ma.

DPP lawmaker Chan Yun-hsi said that since Miaoli County has already spent money developing the Ma Village, it should use the money intended for the museum to improve run-down infrastructure in the county.

"It is a waste of taxpayer money to build a Ma museum in a place that has nothing to do with him," Hsu Ching-jung, a DPP lawmaker from Miaoli County, said.

Ma, a Harvard law graduate, served as justice minister, Taipei mayor and the KMT party chairman before he won the March 22 presidential election. His crackdown down on corruption and clean record earned him the nickname Mr Clean.

On Saturday, Ma phoned Liu to express support for developing Miaoli's tourism industry, but suggested changing the museum's name to promote ethnic harmony.

Liu said he will go ahead with his plan to build the museum, and will consider Ma's suggestion to change the name to Ethnic Harmony Museum.

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