TAIPEI, Taiwan - Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) yesterday headed to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office (KDPO) as a defendant to be questioned over her part in the multiple gas explosions that tore up several streets in the southern city.
Surrounded by groups of shouting supporters before they entered the KDPO, Chen, Deputy Mayor Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳), Kaohsiung City Environmental Protection Bureau Director Chen Chin-der (陳金德) and Labor Affairs Bureau Director Chung Kung-chao (鍾孔炤) yesterday participated in an interview session in order to determine whether they were guilty of malversation. They were all let go without bail after two hours of questioning.
The KDPO entrusted the probe over the explosions to a special prosecution team, and Chen was by far the highest ranking government officer summoned during the investigation.
The multiple explosions occurred in late July, ripping apart several blocks in downtown Kaohsiung due to severe petrochemical leaks, claiming 31 lives. Shortly after the blasts, Kuomintang (KMT) Kaohsiung City Councilor Hsu Kun-yuan (許崑源) reported Chen and her officials to the KDPO, pressing misconduct charges for violating Article 130 of the Criminal Code, which states that a public official who neglects his duties, thereby causing a catastrophe, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than three years but not more than 10 years.
Last Friday, the KDPO decided to summon Chen so that she could explain her involvement in the case.
Previously, Chen and the Kaohsiung government had stated that there was no registered information regarding the LCY Chemical Corp. (LCY, 李長榮化學工業) pipelines that ultimately caused the explosions, but the mayor was seen bowing in apology after the local China Times publicized a government document pointing out that while inspecting the locations for the city's light rail system project, Kaohsiung's Mass Rapid Transit Bureau (MRTB) had in fact already discovered the problems with the LCY pipelines.
"After gaining further understanding, (we) discovered that our team made serious mistakes when it came to horizontal communication ... but (we) did not lie," said the mayor in an interview after her apology.
Expecting Authorities to Handle This Fairly: Chen
The Kaohsiung police were seen struggling with Chen's many supporters and some protesters in front of the KDPO.
Through the Kaohsiung City Government, Chen stated that she would be facing the prosecution's deliberations with a positive attitude and will not shy away from responsibility.
"The city government respects the law, and expects the judiciary authorities to handle this fairly."