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Chao apologizes to president

First son-in-law Chao Chien-ming quit President Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) amidst a chorus of calls for his expulsion over his involvement in the snowballing insider trading scandal yesterday.

Immediately after the ruling party’s demand for his apology to the president Wednesday, Chao apologized through the semi-official Central News Agency to his father-in-law and the nation.

But the apology came too late to hold back DPP leaders from demanding that Chao, an osteopath at the Taiwan University Hospital, be kicked out of the ruling party.

Chen Ching-chun, the DPP legislative caucus whip, said after Chao had faxed in his resignation the party has no alternative but to axe him.

Other party leaders, including lawmaker Huang Chao-hui, joined in the call for expelling the doctor married to first daughter Chen Hsing-yu.

In the letter of resignation, Chao said he would “like to assume responsibility and leave the party on my own accord,” while the insider trading case is now under investigation.

Taipei district prosecutors questioned two bankers involved in the scandal yesterday. They were Su Teh-chien, board chairman of the Taiwan Development Corporation, and Tsai Ching-wen, a member of the board of directors of the Waterland Financial Holding Company.

Both met Chao and his mother twice at dinner with Chang Po-hsin, board chairman of the Chang Hwa Bank, at a Taipei restaurant in last July. Chang Hwa held a controlling share of Taiwan Development.

Chang decided to sell all Taiwan Development shares Chang Hwa held to three buyers, including Chao’s mother.

At Tsai’s recommendation, she bought two million shares, whose prices soared more than nine times immediately after the company almost bankrupt was given NT$1.6 billion in bailout loans by a government-controlled consortium.

Mrs. Chao-Chien Shui-mien, the doctor’s mother, is said to have made at least NT$100 million in eight months.

After the questioning, prosecutors requested detention of Tsai Ching-wen as a defendant without bail. A Taipei district court judge has yet to grant the request. Su Teh-chien, also questioned as a defendant, was released.

He went to the Ministry of Finance to explain his case in the afternoon.

Chao’s resignation was scheduled to be discussed at the Taipei City Chapter of the Democratic Progressive Party today.

But the schedule was canceled late last night.

Wang Ching-li, chairman of the city chapter who said he did not rule out the possibility of dismissing Chao, changed his mind and said no meeting is now necessary because the first son-in-law is now no longer a member.

Should Chao’s resignation be accepted, he would be able to rejoin the party anytime. But once kicked out, he would have to wait for at least five years before he could rejoin.

It was only five years ago when Chao joined the DPP, while his father-in-law doubled as party chairman.

David Huang, the legislative caucus whip of the DPP’s tiny ally Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), said Chao had to be dismissed from the ruling party to help raise the popularity of President Chen, which has sunk to an all-time low.

“What Chao has done,” Huang said, “has damaged or even ruined the ruling party and damaged the image and prestige of the president.”

A poll conducted by the TSU shows President Chen’s approval ratings at a mere 5.8 percent.

According to a telephone poll the United Daily News published yesterday, only 20 percent of respondents approved of President Chen’s performance.

Opposition Kuomintang lawmakers continued their broadside against Chao and the president.

Tina Pan, the Kuomintang party whip, told a press conference at the Legislative Yuan the first family is involved in insider trading, which should be condemned by all the people.

She said Chao’s apology and resignation from the party do not absolve him.

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