Taiwan names new economics minister after predecessor quits over fatal gas blasts

Soldiers clearing up the ground at the gas explosions site in the southern Kaohsiung city on August 2, 2014. A series of powerful gas blasts killed at least 25 people and injured up to 267, overturning cars and ripping up roads as terrified residents
Soldiers clearing up the ground at the gas explosions site in the southern Kaohsiung city on August 2, 2014. A series of powerful gas blasts killed at least 25 people and injured up to 267, overturning cars and ripping up roads as terrified residents fled an inferno. -- PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan on Sunday named Mr Woody Duh Tyzz-Jiun as economics minister, after his predecessor resigned in the aftermath of a gas explosion that killed 30 people and injured more than 300.

Mr Chang Chia-juch, who took his post in February 2013, submitted his resignation on Thursday after a series of gas blasts ripped through several city blocks in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city, late on July 31.

The Executive Yuan, or Cabinet, on Sunday said in a statement that Premier Chang Yi-huah had accepted Mr Chang's decision to go despite efforts to persuade him to stay at his post. The two are not related.

The Cabinet then named Chang's deputy as the new economics minister.

Mr Duh had also submitted his resignation on Thursday with Mr Chang, as is customary for the deputy ministerial post of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, according to Mr Sun Lih-chyun, spokesman for the Executive Yuan. Mr Sun said Mr Duh had been asked to stay on as acting minister, then was appointed officially on Sunday when efforts to persuade Mr Chang to change his mind failed.

Mr Duh is a United States-educated career civil servant, according to the statement from the Executive Yuan. His expertise is in industrial policy, technology and management, and he is also experienced in cross-strait and international trade cooperation, the statement said.

Central and local government authorities have been in dispute over compensation for the blast and the costs of reconstruction. Mr Chang said last week he hoped his departure would ease the political deadlock.

The explosions gutted a district in the port city packed with shops and apartment buildings. The ensuing dispute is the latest between the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan.

Taiwan politicians and the public have been divided over a trade and services pact with China that would bring both sides economically closer. There has also been disagreement over the fate of the long-stalled construction of a fourth nuclear power plant in northern Taiwan.

Register here to get free digital access to The Straits Times until Aug 9, 2015.
Comments