Anger stoked as well-off Taiwan officials use city housing

Anger stoked as well-off Taiwan officials use city housing
PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taipei City councilors yesterday unveiled a list of five high-ranking officials who are currently residing in a city-owned property, but who own properties in the Greater Taipei area.

Among them, Chen Ming-shiun, head of Taipei City's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC), allegedly owns personal assets worth almost NT$100 million (S$4.3 million) and is rumored to hold a US Green Card.

Chen became a focus for criticism when he stormed out of a tense council session, after voicing his displeasure at Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je's plans to raise rent for the city-owned residence.

Grilled by councilors during the session - who called him "out of touch" and "arrogant" - Chen replied he could not accept such labels.

"I quit, right this second," said Chen.

The city-owned property, located near Regents Hotel, is reserved exclusively for department heads within the city government. When Ko initiated plans to increase the monthly rent for tenants from NT$700 to NT$15,000, Chen expressed his disagreement on social media.

"If the mayor's proposed increase were to be carried out, I would without a doubt pack my bags and leave," said Chen.

Ko's final decision on the matter was to rise rents to approximately NT$6,000.

Councilors yesterday blasted Chen for opposing the rent increase, despite his "evident wealth."

According to councilors Yan Sheng-guan, Hung Chien-yi, Ruan Jhao-syong and Hsieh Wei-chou, Chen claimed he had to pay off nearly NT$70,000 of his mortgage each month and could not afford another NT$15,000. However, councilors presented data that they claimed proves otherwise - they claimed Chen owned homes in New Taipei City and Taoyuan.

They demanded he apologise for his alleged contempt toward the council, and urged Ko to carefully consider whether Chen is fit for his position.

Green Card Speculation

Chen has admittedly said he lived in the United States for eight years and held a "pauper card" while there - a document he claims proves his low-income status. Local media have speculated that Chen holds a green card, claiming that owning one is a prerequisite for holding a "pauper card." However, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Kin W. Moy, said yesterday that he has never heard of "pauper cards."

Four Other Officials Own Property

Councilor Chien Shu-pei also revealed yesterday that five out of the total 14 city officials on the tenant list own other properties in the Greater Taipei area, according to data from the Control Yuan.

The five officials include Chen, Secretary-General Su Li-chiung, Chou Li-liang, head of the Department of Cultural Affairs Ni Chung-hua, and head of the Taipei City Fire Department Wu Jing-hung.

Officials Not Paid Well: Ko

Ko said that though he believes public functionaries should pay a monthly rent of NT$15,000, the final decision was to charge around NT$6,000 instead, since "they are not paid too much."

When questioned about the stark contrast between social housing that costs up to NT$30,000 a month and city-owned property for city government officials that can be rented for approximately NT$7,000, Ko said public functionaries in Taiwan are not paid as well as those in Singapore, and they face a high level of uncertainty, "they might resign after only a month in."

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