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Premier will not ask for resignation of MOTC chief

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Premier Jiang Yi-huah will not ask Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih to resign over allegations of a lavish banquet thrown for him by the head of the country's largest cellular phone distributor, Cabinet spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen said yesterday.

Yeh is at the center of a controversy over his “close relationship” with Senao International Chairman Paul Lin, after ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai accused Yeh of accepting Lin's offer to throw him a birthday bash.

At a regular Cabinet meeting Jan. 16, Yeh said he was invited by Chiang Shou-ping, a member of the KMT Central Standing Committee, and some friends to go on a mountain climbing trip on his birthday on Jan. 5 and they later had a modest meal — not a banquet — at a farmhouse-turned-restaurant.

Tsai also accused Yeh of forcing Lee Yen-sung to resign last month as chairman of Chunghwa Telecom Co.— the nation's biggest telecom carrier — after Lee refused in mid-2013 to buy shares of Senao, a listed company and a subsidiary of Chunghwa Telecom, at a high price.

But Yeh said as his ministry is the largest shareholder of Chunghwa Telecom, he has coordinated disputes between Senao and Chunghwa Telecom over different logistics strategies.

He noted that Chunghwa Telecom owns less than 30 percent of the shares in Senao, while the latter is the sole agent of Chunghwa Telecom.

Yeh said he has suggested Chunghwa Telecom increase its shares in Senao in the interest of good corporate governance and to help resolve the standoff between the two companies, but he never interfered in the follow-up communications.

He also denied that he had forced Chunghwa Telecom Chairman Lee Yen-sung to resign because Lee would not comply with his request to buy Senao shares at a high price.

Lee is stepping down later this month only because of his age, Yeh said.

After listening to the explanations put forth by Yeh and other Cabinet members, Jiang said he will not consider asking for Yeh's resignation.

Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou has discussed the matter with Jiang and will respect whatever decision the Executive Yuan makes, the Presidential Office said yesterday.

At a tea party held by the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC) on Jan. 16, Ma said the commission's discouragement of its employees seeking or accepting preferential treatment on business trips is a good practice.

His remarks were seen as aimed at Yeh but the Presidential Office said Ma's comment had nothing to do with the transportation minister.

In his speech at the event, the president also talked about his experience of working at the commission 20 years ago, the Presidential Office said.

It said the RDEC, which in charge of performance evaluation and supervision of state-run enterprises, sets stricter employee standards than in the public service.

“That was what the president wanted to convey,” the Presidential Office said.

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