China Steel chairman political: legislator

By Alfred Lee, The China Post

New Party Legislator Lee Ching-hua yesterday alleged Kuo yen-tu’s appointment as the incoming chairman of China Steel has more to do with politics than with Kuo’s real qualifications. The legislator also claimed that Chen Che-nan, deputy secretary to the president, intends to run for the Kaoshiung mayorship planning to use Kuo’s influence in the future elections. Wang Chong-yu, the outgoing China Steel chairman, currently also serves as the chairman of the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Company, a position controlling a NT$170 billion budget. Lee suspects that after Kuo has taken over his new position at China Steel, he might also be appointed chairman of the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Company and control its huge budget. However, vice chairman Lin Wen-yuan of the Commission for National Corporations previously said that he would invite Wang to retain his position at the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Company.

Legislator Lee also claimed that President Chen Shui-bian favored Chen Che-nan as the next Kaohsiung mayor while Frank Hsieh, the current city mayor, is said to be an active supporter of Wang Chong-yu because of Wang’s proven outstanding leadership and management capability. For political reasons, Lee alleges, the Cabinet violated China Steel rules by appointing an unqualified person as its chairman.

Knowing that Wang is to be replaced by Kuo, representatives of China Steel workers’ union protested the appointment yesterday. Union leaders denounced the appointment as a reward to Kuo for his contribution to Chen Shui-bian presidential campaign. They also believe that he is not qualified for such position. They charged that even if the government insisted in appointing another person to lead China Steel, they would still prefer to promote a more qualified person from within the company. Many China Steel employees expressed that they were “quite saddened and disappointed” with the appointment. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch has downgraded its rating of China Steel stock. The company share prices suffered the biggest single-day slide yesterday since the end of last August. It lost NT$0.9 closing at NT$18.8. Market analysts warned that the share prices of the company may further decline since foreign corporate investors hold 9 percent of China Steel’s equity. They also warned local corporate investors might switch their China Steel shares for others’. Chao Yao-tung, former economic minister and the founding chairman of China Steel, commented yesterday that the government should take full responsibility of the decision. Chao said that there are many state-run corporations whose operations need to be overhauled, but China Steel is absolutely not one of those. Chao was quoted as saying, “If they (current government) see China Steel’s case as a small case rather than a nationwide issue, who else can turn them around.” He said that the current government adopted the same attitude in its handling of the 4th nuclear power plant suspension, with no regard to the expectations of the general public nor the development of the national economy. The employees of the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Company are very concerned about their company’s future because they believe Wang is the most qualified person to lead the project to completion.