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September 21, 2017

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Officials' resignations show Ma's poor crisis management

The Executive Yuan last Saturday morning announced that Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Principal Deputy Minister Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀), who doubles as Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) vice chairman and secretary-general, has resigned for personal reasons.

Both the Cabinet and the MAC explained that the health condition of Chang's mother was the main reason behind his exit. In less than 24 hours, Chang issued a press statement to reporters, claiming that he was forced to step down from his posts by his "superiors." Chang said he has done his best when his country needed him, and he accepts with grace that his superiors do not need him anymore.

Chang's sudden revelation slapped the Cabinet and the MAC in their faces. The MAC within an hour struck back against Chang by saying that the outgoing deputy minister has been reported and will be investigated for work-related reasons, which tacitly confirmed Chang's claim of being forced to resign.

As a matter of fact, this was not the first time the Ma Ying-jeou administration forced an official to resign by saying they voluntarily left. Former Minister without Portfolio Huang Kuang-nan (黃光男) and former Overseas Community Affairs Council Minister Wu Ying-yi (吳英毅) both discovered they were forced to leave the Cabinet after reading reports about their "volunteered" resignations. The two, however, kept silent and refused further comment.

The Ma administration probably did not expect Chang to retaliate. The storyline of Chang's resignation is becoming the plot of a soap opera, especially after the MAC said its previous statement about Chang leaving the council for family reasons was an attempt to protect him. Chang responded by saying that the MAC's accusation against him is groundless.

Protect Chang from what? To protect him from the public knowing he will be investigated for some unclear work-related reasons? Let's not forget about the fact that Chang has been working at the MAC and SEF — the agencies responsible for the conduct of relations with Beijing — for over a year. If Chang has done something that cost him the positions, should not the public have the right to know the real reasons behind his "resignation?" The real reason for Chang's exit currently remains unclear. The public does not buy the MAC's excuse of protecting Chang either. Whether the MAC's accusation is true or not, the tension between the outgoing deputy minister and the MAC is like two trains colliding head-on. The outcome will not benefit either of them.

When it comes to persuading a Cabinet member to stay in the government, the Ma administration also shows its poor communication and crisis-management skills.

The government apparently misjudged former Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch's (張家祝) determination to leave the Cabinet. The fact that the Executive Yuan stalled the approval of his resignation for days has demoralized Cabinet members. Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) should have approved Chang's resignation before the whole nation saw Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) standing outside of Chang's residence in the middle of the night, pressing the doorbell in an attempt to talk him into staying in the government. The Ma administration should have been more decisive about Chang's determined resignation.

Whether the political appointees left voluntarily or were forced out by their "superiors," there have been too many political appointees leaving Ma's administration since January. While Ma's remaining time in office is less than two years, the government should handle all personnel management in a more cautious manner. After seeing the way the Ma administration treats its favored and disliked political appointees, who would want to join the Cabinet and serve for the rest of the two years? The government's failure to handle personnel appointments appropriately may stall the country's development progress and harm people's interests and rights.

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