Changing China

Giant on the move

Gritty blast from Taiwan’s gravelly past

November 13, 2009

Taiwan Premier Wu Den-yih has sued a formerĀ opposition legislator for defamation this week, seeking compensation of T$3 million ($92,715), the government news office said.

It’s not just another lawsuit. Lee Wen-chung, the former lawmaker who is now running for county chief executive in central Taiwan, has publicly accused the premier of going to Bali in December with a man involved in a Taiwan gravel mine to protect the operation while benefiting from it himself. Wu, a legislator in December, acknowledges the Bali trip but says he committed no crime.

Taiwan’s public will hope the accusations against the premier are false as their island lags developed Asian peers in surveys about public perceptions of corruptionĀ despite more than 20 years of democratic reforms. Graft is still classified as a risk to business on the island (see Reuters report ). Gravel mining was particularly suspect in Taiwan’s history, with local officials feared to be cutting special deals for contracts.

“When you watch the Wu Den-yih saga, it’s really ridiculous,” said Shane Lee, political scientist at Chang Jung University in Taiwan. “It’s people’s desire (to change), but people feel so helpless.”

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