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Chu said he could not turn down appointment

ROC Central News Agency

2009/09/07 22:59:37
By Deborah Kuo CNA staff writer Taipei, Sept. 7 (CNA) Taoyuan County Magistrate Eric Liluan Chu, who will become vice premier in the new Cabinet, offered his apology Monday to residents of Taoyuan, where he has been the county chief since 2001, for leaving office before the end of his term at the end of year.

Chu was appointed Monday by President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier-designate Wu Den-yih as the next vice premier.

"I had no option to turn down the appointment or make other choices as the country needs me at a time when it is facing the most trying challenge it ever has faced, " Chu said at a news conference after accepting the new appointment.

He apologized to his constituents for his early departure and expressed his appreciation to them for their support over the past eight years.

He said his feelings were mixed when he was approached by President Ma two days ago to help the KMT government in the wake of Typhoon Morakot, which battered southern Taiwan with one of the worst natural disasters in Taiwan in 50 years and undermined the people's confidence in the KMT.

Few were surprised Monday when Chu was tipped to become vice premier.

"It was only a matter of when, " said Taoyuan County Council Speaker Tseng Chung-yi, who felt Chu will be able to make his expertise felt in the Cabinet because of his strong educational background and rich experience in both the legislative and administrative arenas.

Chu, 48, was an accounting professor at National Taiwan University before he entered the politics as a Kuomintang (KMT) legislator in 1999. He generally received higher approval ratings than his KMT legislative counterparts for handling issues adeptly because of his expertise in business and finance.

Chu, however, was recruited by the KMT leadership in 2001 to run for county chief in Taoyuan after the Democratic Progressive Party had taken over the county that had long been a KMT stronghold.

To the KMT's relief, he won the Taoyuan magistrate election by 11 percentage points that year and was re-elected in 2005 with nearly double the margin, reflecting voters' satisfaction with his performance as head of the county.

Since 2003, he has been coined as part of an "iron triangle" called "Ma-Li-Chiang" that referred to the party's biggest vote getters -- the then Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, Chu, and Taichung Mayor Jason Hu.

He has been selected many times in public opinion polls as one of the three most favored local government leaders in the country and one of the most popular leaders in KMT-controlled regions.

He has made strenuous efforts to solicit businesses to relocate their operations to Taoyuan and expand education and tourism development.

Under his leadership, Taoyuan County has continually ranked as the No. 1 administrative district in the country in terms of annual tax revenue contributions over the past several years.

In anticipation of warming cross-Taiwan Strait relations and increased cross-strait exchanges, he has over the past several years pushed to develop a Taoyuan Aviation City, with the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport as its center.

Taoyuan's population has continuously grown under Chu's administration and is expected to top 2 million by next year, moving the county one step closer to its target to be upgraded to a direct metropolitan city.

In March this year, Chu was one of three local government heads named by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) think tank as recipients of its prestigious annual Founders Awards for their efforts in digital and technology development. The forum studies the impact of technology on 21st century communities.

The two other award recipients were Dave Carter, head of the Manchester Digital Development Agency of the United Kingdom and Andrew J. Spano, county executive for Westchester County of the United States.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan announced Sept. 7 that he and his Cabinet will resign en masse after Thursday's regular weekly Cabinet meeting to give President Ma Ying-jeou a free hand to form a new Cabinet.

Local political observers say that Chu and premier-designate Wu will face more serious challenges than they might anticipate as the economy still struggles with record-high unemployment and the government tries to improve its image as lacking competence after being heavily criticized for its response to Typhoon Morakot.

(By Deborah Kuo) ENDITEM/ls

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