Taiwan minister quits over extramarital affair claims in local media

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwanese minister resigned Thursday after his alleged extramarital affair surfaced in the media, the latest blow to a government battling mounting anger over its policies on China and nuclear energy.

Minister without portfolio Chen Shi-shuenn, who also heads the cabinet-level public construction commission, stepped down after a local weekly ran a story and photograph claiming the married 64-year-old was having an affair with a college professor 20 years his junior.

According to Next Magazine, Mr Chen frequented the professor's home several weeks ago at a time when the embattled government was grappling with widespread public anger. Mr Chen has denied the allegations but tendered his resignation for "causing the cabinet team trouble", a cabinet statement said, adding that it has been approved by Premier Jiang Yi-huah.

Mr Chen became the second cabinet member to resign over personal relationship issues in recent years. In 2009 Chu Yun-peng, a minister without portfolio and key economic adviser to President Ma Ying-jeou, quit after he was caught by the media skipping work to go on dates.

Mr Chen's alleged tryst took place while student protesters opposing a services trade pact with China were occupying parliament's main chamber, in the first seizure of the building in Taiwan's history.

The students' action drew large crowds of supporters, with more than 10,000 gathered outside parliament at one point.

There were violent clashes on March 23 when baton-wielding police turned water cannon on some demonstrators who had stormed the nearby cabinet headquarters.

The three-week occupation ended on April 10 after parliament peaker Wang Jin-pyng promised students that he would not preside over further debate on the trade pact until a law is passed to monitor agreements with China.

However, the government also faces discontent over its nuclear power policy, with anti-nuclear groups planning to stage mass street protest over the weekend to support former opposition leader Lin Yi-hsiung.

The activist has been on hunger strike since Tuesday to demand that a nearly completed nuclear facility outside Taipei be scrapped on safety grounds.

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