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May 28, 2017

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Ma agrees economics minister shouldn't resign: source

TAIPEI--President Ma Ying-jeou expressed support Saturday for the Cabinet's efforts to dissuade Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch from resigning in the wake of a series of deadly gas explosions that rocked Kaohsiung last week, killing 30 people and injuring hundreds, according to a source at the Presidential Office.

The source said Premier Jiang Yi-huah reported to Ma about a telephone conversation with Chang on Friday night, in which the premier failed to convince the minister not to resign.

"President Ma fully supports Jiang's active efforts" to dissuade Chang from resigning, the sources said.

Chang tendered his resignation amid an ongoing squabble over who should be held responsible for the deadly underground gas explosions.

Kaohsiung's municipal government has blamed the Ministry of Economic Affairs, saying it failed to properly supervise the petrochemical industry.

In a public statement Thursday announcing his resignation, Chang said he is "extremely worried" about the country's future because opposition politicians are bent on boycotting normal government functions.

Chen Chu, a senior member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, has been mayor of Kaohsiung City since 2006.

At the closing ceremony of a training program for government officials in Taipei Saturday, Ma praised Chang's work as economics minister, saying he had "done a lot of research" ahead of the electricity price hike in October 2013.

Chang worked to minimize the impact of the price increase on households and presented data to convince legislators who were strongly opposed to the hikes, Ma said.

Households using 500 kilowatt hours or less of electricity per month were exempt from the price hike, as were small businesses consuming 1,500 kWh or less. Under the original plan, the ceiling was at 330 kWh for households and 330 kWh for small businesses.

Jiang told reporters Saturday that during a 30-minute conversation with Chang the previous night, he had urged the minister to reconsider his decision in the public interest.

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