Shieh a problematic GIO chief

By Joe Hung, Special to The China Post

Taiwan seems stuck with a problematic propaganda chief. It’s bad news, of course. But the good news is that Shieh Jhy-weu, who calls himself a minister with a portfolio for the Government Information Office (GIO), will last as long as President Chen Shui-bian, who has to step down on May 20 next year.

The GIO head used to be known as “director-general,” for he was not given a seat in the Executive Yuan Council, where all its members, with or without portfolios, are Cabinet ministers. If he wants to style himself as minister, Shieh has to be admitted to that council, of which Premier Chang Chun-hsiung is the chairman. Titles matter in Taiwan. Almost immediately after he had assumed office in the summer, Shieh began broaching a grandiose plan to set up a worldwide television network to promote the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) cause of Taiwan’s metamorphosis into a “normal country.” The opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan didn’t approve of a waste of money for another government “white elephant.” Who cares to watch propaganda from Taiwan? That ambitious plan, therefore, won’t materialize.

Undaunted, the GIO chief has turned to dedicating himself to President Chen’s campaign to get Taiwan into the United Nations under its name. As a starter, Shieh is said to have required government agencies to chip in more than NT$77 million (US$2.4 million) to finance propaganda. When questioned on the floor of the nation’s highest legislative organ, he denied that allegation, insisting that the GIO has never used “a penny” from any agency, except the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for that purpose. No balance sheet on the futile propaganda drive was produced, however.

Now Shieh is organizing another propaganda drive to champion the U.N. cause. His GIO will provide publicity items for an island-wide marathon torch relay, sponsored by the National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, to rally support for Taiwan’s admission to the U.N. as Taiwan. Well, it’s a bit too late. The U.N. General Assembly debated the issue on Oct. 3. Only four of Taipei’s diplomatic allies had their representatives speak in favor of Taiwan at the debate, after which a vote was taken, and President Chen’s U.N. bid was overwhelmingly rejected, as had been expected. Taiwan maintains diplomatic relations with only 24 out of more than 180 U.N. member states, and not all the allies voted for Taiwan.