BEIJING — The prime minister of Taiwan resigned Monday because of the government’s widely criticized response to a deadly typhoon and said that his successor would replace the entire cabinet this week.
Liu Chao-shiuan, Taiwan's prime minister, announced his resignation in Taipei on Monday.
The announcement at a news conference by Liu Chao-shiuan, the prime minister, came as a surprise, even though the government had come under intense pressure for what many Taiwanese called its inept handling of Typhoon Morakot. The storm slammed into Taiwan in early August and left at least 700 people dead or missing after three days of heavy rain set off huge mudslides. Mr. Liu’s resignation is the most serious political fallout yet from the typhoon.
Popular support for President Ma Ying-jeou, who was elected by a wide margin in the spring of 2008 on a platform of rejuvenating the economy and improving ties with mainland China, has plummeted in the aftermath of the disaster. Mr. Ma reluctantly allowed the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetans who is accused of being a separatist by mainland China, to visit Taiwan last week to give succor to typhoon victims. Some analysts said it was a sign of Mr. Ma’s desperation.
Mr. Ma, who has the power to appoint the prime minister, chose Wu Den-yih as the replacement for Mr. Liu. Since 2007, Mr. Wu has been general secretary of the Kuomintang, the party to which Mr. Ma belongs and that ruled Taiwan for decades after retreating here in 1949 after its loss to the Communists in the Chinese civil war. Mr. Wu was appointed as mayor of Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan, from 1990 to 1994, and he served as mayor again for four more years after being elected.
At the news conference on Monday, Mr. Liu said he had first offered Mr. Ma his resignation in mid-August. Mr. Ma had asked him to stay, he said, but Mr. Liu had “firmly made up my mind.” The two men had a conversation on Sunday night at the house of Mr. Liu’s mother, Mr. Liu said.
“I believe because so many people died, someone must take responsibility,” he said.
The prime minister appoints the entire cabinet, which has eight ministries established under the Constitution and many newer commissions. The current cabinet will resign together on Thursday, Mr. Liu said.
Critics of the government say President Ma and other leaders should have evacuated residents in vulnerable areas before the typhoon hit and accepted foreign aid earlier, among other things. Mr. Ma had said he might reshuffle some members of his cabinet, but there had been no hint that the prime minister and entire cabinet would resign.
Bruce Jacobs, a scholar of Taiwan at Monash University in Australia, said he was surprised to hear of the change, but that Mr. Liu deserved to be held accountable for the “disastrous” government response to Typhoon Morakot.
“I think generally people will be pleased because there’s a change, but whether they’ll be pleased with Wu Den-yih, I don’t know,” Mr. Jacobs said.
He added that Mr. Wu was a somewhat disappointing choice because he is not known as someone who presses anticorruption efforts within the Kuomintang, which has conservative factions that critics accuse of being corrupt and anti-democratic. But a reform-minded party member, Eric Chu, has been appointed the vice prime minister, Mr. Jacobs said.
Mr. Wu is a native Taiwanese and speaks the Taiwanese dialect fluently, which could give him an advantage over Mr. Liu in trying to quell anger in the aftermath of the typhoon. Some of the worst hit areas were in southern Taiwan, dominated by native Taiwanese, who lived on the island well before the Chinese fleeing the civil war settled there.
not actually huge news but whatevs. Anything we can do to get a Taiwan tag?