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On cross-strait ties, President Ma says 'worm in a tree' needs to be removed

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A woodpecker going after a worm was the analogy President Ma Ying-jeou used Thursday in his first direct comment to the press on the removal of Mainland Affairs Council (MAC, 陸委會) Deputy Minister Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀), who was forced to resign mid-month on allegations that he leaked secrets.

Cross-Taiwan Strait relations are like a big tree, Ma said, and “worms” inside it must be picked out by woodpeckers “so the tree will grow normally,” Ma told a press conference.

Ma said though he is confident that relations between Taiwan and China will not be affected by “just one worm,” but the alleged problem must not be overlooked.

“This is how we are looking at this matter,” he said.

The president made a point to deny allegations that sending Chang to prosecutors for investigation was politically motivated. “How could we 'struggle' against one of our own men?” he asked.

Taiwan is a modern democracy in which all citizens' basic human rights are well protected, he contended, assuring that Chang's rights will be guaranteed and he will be given every opportunity to speak for himself.

“I know everyone in this country, including those across the strait, are very concerned with this case and are eager to know the final results,” he said.

Getting those “final results that stand all tests” is the precise reason why the president tasked judicial investigators to conduct “in-depth and proper” investigation that gives fair and just treatment to the suspect.

“At this moment, it's beyond my capacity to tell you what he (Chang) had done and what charges he may face,” he said, adding that he is sure “facts will come out” that will be able to withstand scrutiny.

Too Early to Apologize: Ma

On opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) demand that he apologize for having assigned Chang to such a critical post only for these allegations to arise, Ma asked: “Must I apologize for this?”

He said the chairwoman of Democratic Progressive Party has “got her logic wrong” by asking him to apologize before the court has made a verdict.

Chang is still under investigation and the specifics of his alleged crime has not been made public, so “it's quite strange (for Tsai) to demand an apology and even an acknowledgement of wrong-doing” at this stage, he said.

The president stressed that MAC Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) has been “doing the right thing” by referring his deputy to judicial investigations once he found there were problems.

“This is the correct way of handling this kind of matter. Our national security apparatus has not been dysfunctional,” he said, rebutting calls for Wang's head for allegedly putting Taiwan's national security at risk.

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