Taiwan president's spokesman resigns amid controversy

Spokesman for Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, Mr Lo Chih-chiang, resigned on Thursday amid a deepening political scandal that saw the parliamentary speaker expelled over influence peddling claims. Mr Lo, deputy secretary-general of the pre
Spokesman for Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, Mr Lo Chih-chiang, resigned on Thursday amid a deepening political scandal that saw the parliamentary speaker expelled over influence peddling claims. Mr Lo, deputy secretary-general of the presidential office, said the expulsion of speaker Mr Wang Jin-pyng (above) on Wednesday had prompted his surprise decision. -- PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - A spokesman for Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou resigned on Thursday amid a deepening political scandal that saw the parliamentary speaker expelled over influence peddling claims.

Mr Lo Chih-chiang, deputy secretary-general of the presidential office, said the expulsion of speaker Mr Wang Jin-pyng on Wednesday had prompted his surprise decision.

"I want to take a break and spend time with my family," he added.

"The controversy over Wang's influence peddling case ... made me think that it's time to come to an end at work," he told reporters.

The president sparked criticism after the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party revoked Mr Wang's membership on Wednesday, which rendered him unable to continue as speaker.

Mr Ma, also chairman of the KMT, said Mr Wang was "unfit" to head the legislature after he was accused of influencing prosecutors not to appeal in a lawmaker's court case. Mr Ma described the incident as "the most shameful day" in Taiwan's democracy.

Mr Wang, 72, was a KMT heavyweight known for his grassroots influence. His removal has sparked fears of a split within the party.

Meanwhile, Mr Ma's popularity plunged to an all-time low of 11 per cent amid the controversy, according to a survey released by the TVBS cable news channel on Thursday, while 55 per cent disapproved of the KMT's move and just 17 per cent approved.

Another poll, conducted by the Apple Daily newspaper, found that 65.75 per cent of people supported Mr Wang, compared with 21.71 per cent who backed the president.

Mr Lo became the fourth top member in Mr Ma's government to resign recently.

Justice minister Tseng Yung-fu stepped down last week after he was implicated in the same influence peddling scandal.