Magistrate challenges minister over promotions

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Taipei County chief yesterday challenged the interior minister to an open debate, in a row between the central and local governments over who has the authority to promote police personnel. The county chief, Chou Hsi-wei, dared the minister, Lee Yi-yang, to an open debate, while the latter’s aides responded by saying, “He (Chou) wants a debate, he gets one.” The National Police Administration (NPA), which Lee oversees, Thursday annulled the promotion of 140 mid-rank officers as soon as they were promoted by Chou.

The NPA insisted the county chief had no power to promote police personnel, and therefore the promotion was illegitimate. But Chou from the main opposition Kuomintang argued that it was the NPA’s order that was illegitimate. While the NPA is the highest body governing the nation’s police forces, local government chiefs are also in the position to manage and direct officers in their cities and counties. Chou claims that as his county is now a special municipality-to-be, he also has the power enjoyed by his counterparts in Taipei and Kaohsiung cities to promote police officers. But the central government stresses that Taipei and Kaohsiung — currently the only two Cabinet-level municipalities — have formally received authorization from the NPA for police personnel promotion, while Taipei County has not. “The county government is fighting for rights the law has given Taipei County to exercise its authority as a special municipality,” Chou said. “I hope the central government can act according to the law. The county’s personnel order and promotion (for the officers) is absolutely valid. It is the National Police Administration’s order that is invalid,” he added.

He insisted that the authorization that the NPA claims the special municipalities need is only required for handling matters, not for handling personnel affairs. He said the would have the legislature — where the opposition camp has a slim majority of seats — settle the row.

According to law, any row between the central government and special municipalities are to be settled by the legislature. “Chou Hsi-wei has violated the law and abused his powers,” said Interior Minister Lee. “By promoting the 140 officers, Chou has damaged the fairness of the police promotion system. This system does not allow any compromise, and we’ll defend it till the end,” Lee said.

“Chou Hsi-wei knows that he’s on shaky ground,” said Cabinet spokesman Shieh Jyh-wei.

“What he’s doing is not just illegal, but is also causing trouble to police, sparking discontent from other cities and counties, and unfair to the nation’s (other) officers,” Shieh said. The 140 promoted officers are now caught in the row. The NPA has warned that any officers who wear badges of ranks higher than they deserve will be punished. But Chou maintained that he is the only one who has power to punish police officers in his county.