The China Post staff
Lee Ying-yuan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate vying for the Taipei mayoral seat, yesterday accused his opponent, Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, of “inefficiency” in the reconstruction of a building damaged in a devastating earthquake three years ago. Lee was referring to the city government’s restoration project of Tunghsing Building, which partially collapsed during the powerful magnitude-7.3 earthquake that jolted Taiwan on September 21, 1999, claiming over 2,400 lives including 87 Tunghsing residents. “Mayor Ma is running slow and his city government is running slow,” Lee criticized during a visit to the crumbled building yesterday morning.
Cheng Chun-hen, head of the Tunghsing residents’ association, complained to the DPP candidate that the city government failed to respond to their request to level the building or turn it into a parking lot. He added that the deserted site has attracted homeless people to the dismay of local residents. Chen went on to blame the city government’s decision to appeal a lawsuit filed by Tunghsing residents to claim national compensation for their losses in the quake. In response, Lee pointed a finger at the city government’s inefficiency, saying that it has been over 1,000 days since the earthquake and nothing has been done to reconstruct the building.
The damaged building affects the city’s overall appearance and it also poses a threat to public safety, Lee said, adding that Ma’s inefficiency is evidenced in several halted public construction projects.
“I promise to renovate the building and personally monitor the reconstruction project, as well as assist the residents in applying for compensation if I were to win the mayoral race,” Lee said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ma kept a low profile in the face of Lee’s accusations, declining to answer questions related to the Tunghsing case.
Taking up the defensive role on behalf of Ma was Taipei City government spokesman Wu Yu-sheng, who blamed Lee for his failure to facilitate passage of a disaster reconstruction bill during his tenure as the Executive Yuan secretary general.
In addition, an official from the Taipei City government’s Bureau of Public Works added that the city government’s efforts in the reconstruction project of Tunghsing Building have been well documented. “It’s not worth it to respond to some people’s accusations,” the unidentified official said. He also explained that the city government appealed for the court ruling of the Tunghsing case because the National Compensation Law does not apply to those buildings with construction permits granted prior to the effective date of the law: July 1, 1981. The construction permit for the Tunghsing building was issued in February 1981.
In related news, a Taipei district court yesterday sentenced two contractors of the Tunghsing building to prison for between two and two-and-one-half years on the grounds of manslaughter. Two of the defendants, the heads of the architectural firm in charge of the building’s design, left Taiwan prior to the trial and are wanted by prosecutors.