Taipei mayor defends himself over criticism that he stayed home during typhoon

Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je talks to students as they protest at the entrance to the Ministry of Education in Taipei.
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI - Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je defended his actions when Typhoon Soudelor passed through Taiwan, after a post from his wife's Facebook page revealed that the mayor was at home on Sunday when the typhoon made landfall.

Information on the mayor's whereabouts was revealed when Ko's wife Chen Pei-chi posted pictures of them having dinner together last Sunday.

Ko revealed that he arrived home on Monday to find Chen weeping after netizens disparaged Ko for leaving the city's emergency response centre while the typhoon passed through Taipei.

"Ever since my husband assumed office, I have been able to count the number of times he has been able to make it home for dinner.

I had no idea that my post on Facebook would cause him so much difficulty. Ha-ha, I am hereby apologising to my husband," she wrote.

After apologising on Facebook for her post on Sunday, Chen has since suspended her account on the social networking site.

Ko remarked that his wife might have been too easily affected emotionally by the criticisms aired online on Facebook.

Appearing frustrated in front of reporters, Ko said that one could not expect him to "catch the breeze of the typhoon" outside while calling those who caused Chen grief "Internet bullies."

He countered their criticism, stating that he was conducting official city business at home, and that he used the Line application to supervise the city's crisis management, including the prioritization of service resumption for major arteries.

Reporters reminded Kuo that then-secretary general of the Executive Yuan, Hsueh Hsiang-chuan, was heavily criticised for dining with family members on Father's Day when Typhoon Morakot ravaged the island in 2009. Hsueh was later pressured to resign after the public relations disaster.

The mayor said he did not see what the fuss was about, with the vital point being that he was present via the Line connection in order to give commands.

Taipei City Councilwoman Lee Yen-hsiu rebuked the mayor, criticising his absence while the Taipei Water Department began reporting spikes in water's murkiness.

Her colleague Wang Hong-wei said that Ko only reported once to the city's emergency response centre last Saturday.

"If one can use a cell phone and Line (during a typhoon), then we can close all emergency response centres throughout Taiwan," said Wang.