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Top envoy to Singapore on defensive over extravagant digs

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's top envoy to Singapore yesterday defended the cost of rent for his official residence in the city-state amid opposition lawmakers' claims that the residence is too extravagant and overly expensive.

According to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislators Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) and Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has spent NT$700,000 per month to rent a 927-square-meter official residence for Taiwan's top envoy to Singapore.

The rent is the most expensive among all 82 of Taiwan's representative offices around the globe.

Chiu and Tsai both cast doubts over the necessity for MOFA to rent such an extravagant and expansive residence in Singapore, especially when the Taiwanese government is facing serious financial difficulties.

Asked to comment, Taiwan's top envoy to Singapore Hsieh Fadah (謝發達), who fielded questions in the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday, said the rent for his official residence in Singapore is relatively higher because the commodity prices in the city-state is significantly higher than those in other countries.

According to the United States State Department, the rent in Singapore is the No. 5 most expensive around 795 cities around the world, Hsieh said. Taipei ranks No. 322 in the same U.S. State Department survey.

Hsieh explained that the rent for his official residence is relatively cheaper than his predecessors'.

He also said the size of the house is comparatively large because its owner is friendly toward Taiwan and offered the house in a relatively cheap price for its size to him.

The representative office also does not need to pay for its maintenance fees as another friendly gesture made by its owner, he said.

Hsieh added that his official residence in Singapore is not just a place to live in but also an important location for him to socialize with foreign counterparts.

Since he moved into the residence in August 2012, Hsieh said he has held 10 major events in his residence so far, accommodating more than 200 guests, including some high-ranking Singaporean government officials.

Caution When Visiting Thailand

Meanwhile, Taiwan's representative to Thailand Henry Chen (陳銘政), who was called back by lawmakers to participate the same session with Hsieh yesterday, said he believes the ongoing anti-government protests in Thailand are expected to continue but will not escalate into physical confrontations.

He called on Taiwanese nationals not to visit crowded areas in Bangkok and avoid wearing yellow and red clothing during visits to the country.

Taiwan raised its travel alert level for Bangkok and its surrounding areas to yellow earlier this week, advising tourists to be cautious and pay close attention to their safety when traveling to the region.

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