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May 26, 2017

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Taipei Deputy Mayor Chen named new labor minister

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Following former Labor Minister Pan Shih-wei's (潘世偉) exit from the Cabinet in July, the Executive Yuan yesterday announced its latest personnel shuffle, naming Taipei Deputy Mayor Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文) to fill Pan's vacated position.

A local tabloid magazine in July published an article claiming that Pan may have been involved in an extramarital affair with his secretary. Despite both Pan and his secretary denying the report, Pan resigned from his post as minister a few days later.

The Cabinet yesterday issued a press statement saying that Chen has served in local government and the central government for years, noting that Chen demonstrated his remarkable abilities during the Taipei International Flora Exposition in 2010.

Based on Chen's experience and expertise in environmental protection, administrative management and industrial policymaking, the Cabinet said it believes that Chen will make an excellent addition to the Ministry of Labor (MOL).

Chen later held a press conference at the Taipei City Government, saying that being named the new labor minister has come as a big surprise. He said his previous plan was to retire after Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin's (郝龍斌) term ends at the end of this year.

The incoming minister said that, at first, he didn't think his expertise was in labor affairs, so he rejected Premier Jiang Yi-huah's (江宜樺) offer on Aug. 14. He said, however, that Jiang contacted him on Aug. 18 via another person and requested that he reconsider taking the position. After discussions with Hau and Jiang, respectively, Chen said he decided to take the post.

Chen said he has served in the Kaohsiung City Government for seven years, at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for 18 years and has been serving in Taipei for nearly eight years. He said that he has long believed environmental and labor welfare issues are two of the social issues that the government needs to take care of in order to improve the nation's economic circumstances.

Given that Chen does not have much experience relating to labor affairs, many have criticized the Executive Yuan's decision to choose him to fill Pan's position. Commentators have argued that it is perhaps because the president's remaining term is less than two years, so the government does not intend to look for an expert on labor issues to make new policies; rather it wants someone who can carry out the executive branch's will, as well as existing policies.

Hau defended Chen against the criticism by saying that, although Chen's expertise is in environmental protection, he did well while preparing the 2010 Taipei Flora Exposition. After the Cabinet's announcement, Hau later named Taipei City Government Secretary-General Chen Yung-jen (陳永仁) to fill Chen Hsiung-wen's position as deputy mayor.

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