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September 23, 2017

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Career's fate relies on 'citizen's choice': Chen

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Kaohsiung citizens will decide whether Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) is fit to serve in the same position within the next 100 days, Chen herself said yesterday in response to criticism over her handling of the Kaohsiung explosions.

Yesterday, after Chen made her round of weekly reports at the Kaohsiung City Council, the Kuomintang's (KMT) council caucus called upon Chen to resign, as she was unable to deal with the petrochemical blasts that tore open the city last month.

The essential relief work was not carried out appropriately in the "golden three hours" that followed the multiple explosions, said KMT councilors Chen Li-na (陳麗娜), Liu De-lin (劉德林) and Hsu Huei-yu (許慧玉). "The Kaohsiung City government team fears for their own lives, places accomplishments over people's welfare and blunders about in many issues," said Liu.

"The city's Environmental Protection Bureau should assist the investigation authorities in determining the nature of the leaked gases, but it lacked professionalism and was unable to prevent the explosions from occurring," said Chen Li-na.

The Kaohsiung mayor should shoulder complete responsibility for the blasts instead of shying away and allowing her deputies to take the brunt for her, the KMT councilors pointed out.

Chen stated that she was not staying in her position because she was power-hungry and unwilling to give it up; she was prepared to shoulder the responsibility, reform the unfair taxation system and expected herself to keep the incident in mind. "My staying or departure would depend on the citizens' choice, which they will make in 100 days. I look forward to collaborating and reflecting on the Kaohsiung tragedy with the central government, thus allowing the city a chance to reform," said Chen, indicating the upcoming mayoral elections in November.

Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Kaohsiung City councilors in turn called for "people with intentions" to refrain from trying to nab political benefits after the explosions, adding that the suspicion should be directed to the government official who had previously approved of the petrochemical pipeline routes and the Chinese Petroleum Corporation.

It would take an estimated three to four months for Kaohsiung to recover from the blasts, said the city government.

Chen's Approval Rates Steady

According to a public survey conducted by local media, over half of Kaohsiung's citizens were still supportive of their mayor despite the ambiguity surrounding the government's involvement in the explosions.

In the survey, over 65 percent of Kaohsiung citizens voted that they were "satisfied" or "extremely satisfied" with Chen's handling of the blasts, while 20 percent voted "unsatisfied," and the remaining 14 percent felt the mayor did a "moderate" job.

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