Taiwan's new envoy to Singapore Antonio Chiang resigned yesterday over a drink-driving incident, a shock move that may nonetheless ease the political pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen and her month-old government.
Mr Chiang, 72, who was caught drink driving in Taipei last Tuesday night hours after he was sworn in to his new job, announced that he offered his resignation to Ms Tsai and Foreign Minister David Lee to take responsibility for "causing trouble" to the government.
In a statement issued to Taiwan's Central News Agency yesterday, Mr Chiang said: "I don't hanker after power or status, and only wish to serve Taiwan. But I am filled with guilt and self-recrimination for causing trouble to the government even before my posting."
Mr Chiang's resignation was a surprise, sources told The Straits Times. It is understood that rumours of the resignation made the rounds in government circles only at noon yesterday, half an hour before his announcement.
The Taipei authorities decided on Monday to defer prosecution, and instead fined Mr Chiang NT$60,000 ($2,570). Sources told ST that he was then supposed to arrive in Singapore to take up his posting as early as next week.
His breath alcohol content was found to be 0.27mg per litre, almost twice the legal limit of 0.15mg per litre. That could have landed him in jail for up to two years.
Civic groups and opposition lawmakers criticised the light sentence and piled even more pressure on Ms Tsai to sack Mr Chiang.
Opposition politicians such as Kuomintang's Lin Te-fu and People First Party's Chen Yi-chieh accused the government of double standards, arguing that public servants nabbed for drink driving should be disciplined, if not dismissed, from their positions.
Mr Chiang was to have arrived in Singapore last weekend in time to attend yesterday's National Day Parade.
Yesterday, presidential office spokesman Alex Huang said the President "respects" Mr Chiang's decision and would appoint a replacement, the Central News Agency reported. The Foreign Ministry said it has informed Singapore of the development.
Correction note: An earlier version of the story said the breathalyser test showed his blood alcohol content was 0.27mg per litre. It should be his breath alcohol content. We are sorry for the error.