By Jenny W. Hsu
Wednesday, Aug 26, 2009, Page 3
SCAPEGOAT?: One analyst said it was unlikely that the deputy
foreign minister would have the right or the audacity to
reject Washington’s aid after the typhoon.
From a missing foreign minister to a cable instructing
overseas representative offices to turn down all forms of
foreign aid except for cash, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MOFA) has become a target of public anger over the
government’s poor performance in the nationwide flood relief
effort following Typhoon Morakot.
While many criticized the ministry for its slow response,
some suspect MOFA, more specifically deputy minister Andrew
was the unfortunate scapegoat covering for the mistakes of
the upper level of government.
Days after Typhoon Morakot wreaked havoc in southern Taiwan
beginning on Aug. 7, it was rumored that MOFA had rejected
all foreign assistance, even though Washington had made an
offer on Aug. 10.
MOFA immediately rebutted the rumor and said Taiwan was
capable of coping with the disaster and if the countries
wanted to help, they could donate money.
MOFA’s attitude drew the ire of the public, condemning the
ministry of being money-hungry and apathetic.
The day after the public denial, the Chinese-language Apple
Daily published a leaked cable, issued by MOFA, that
instructed all overseas representative offices and embassies
to decline all types of foreign aid except for cash.
The document, dated Aug. 11, was leaked by a disgruntled
After MOFA was caught in the contradiction, Hsia apologized
for the cable, chalked it up as a “careless error” and said
the document should have read Taiwan’s rejection to foreign
help was only “temporary.”
Putting his head on the chopping block, Hsia said that
although he had no prior knowledge of the cable, he would
shoulder the blame because the blunder occurred under his
watch while Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊)
Hsia, however, adamantly refused to disclose Ou’s
whereabouts or why he was away. Until now, the ministry has
not offered any description of Ou’s activities during the
typhoon except to say he was attending regional working
meetings in Europe and East Asia.
Hsia also insisted that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)
and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄)
were not involved in the document — a notion scoffed at by
many familiar with the inner workings of MOFA, such as
former Presidential Office secretary-general Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁).
Chen said a decision of such gravity, especially dealing
with diplomacy, could only be approved by someone at the top
of the political pyramid.
Hsia’s apparent loyalty, however, failed to secure the
respect of the public. In fact, many compared him to Taipei
City worker Yu Wen (余文),
who served nine months in jail for failing to keep Ma’s
accounts in order when he served as Ma’s assistant.
In 2006, Ma was indicted of misusing his special allowance
during his stint as Taipei City mayor from 1998 to 2006.
Yu’s confession of using faulty receipts to justify various
expenses was seen as the safety net that saved Ma from
“It is unquestionable that Hsia is another version of Yu,
but the difference is Hsia will be rewarded handsomely in
the future for taking a bullet for the team,” said Shih
dean of the College of Indigenous Studies at National Dong
Hwa University, predicting the prize for Hsia would be
becoming Taiwan’s representative to the EU in Brussels.
Shih said Ma could not accept the US’ offer of help because
he had to wait for a go-ahead from Beijing and the
instructions to decline offers of foreign aid most likely
came directly from the Ma’s right hand-man, Su Chi (蘇起),
who heads the National Security Council (NSC).
Lai I-chung (賴怡忠),
a member of the executive committee at Taiwan Thinktank,
said the NSC must explain its role in the matter “because no
deputy minister has the right nor the audacity to accept or
decline” Washington’s offer of help.
Moreover, if the president and the premier were truly kept
in the dark regarding the cable as the Executive Yuan and
the Presidential Office have insisted, then Hsia was not
only guilty of a poorly worded cable, but “defrauding the
government by failing to communicate important information
to the president,” he said.
Many in the ministry, including Hsia, said MOFA did not
deserve to be berated because its only role in the typhoon
relief effort was as a contact window while the Central
Emergency Operation Center (CEOC) called decided when and
what foreign aid was needed.
Hsia said that prior to Aug. 11, MOFA contacted the CEOC
several times to inquire if the center thought Taiwan was in
need of foreign help. Each time the answer was a resounding
“no,” he said.
But CEOC pointed the finger right back at the ministry
saying it never received a single request for information
“What we need now is the whole truth of what actually
transpired. Was there any message or instruction given from
the upper levels of government when MOFA declined help from
other countries?” said Chen Chien-jen (程建人),
a former foreign minister.
Reluctant to make a quick judgment, he said the ministry
probably “could have done more and better” and it was
“common sense” to accept foreign assistance when it was
offered, especially during a time of need.
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