Ex-DOH head slams DPP leaders

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff — Former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang yesterday criticized Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leaders for condoning their supporters’ open remarks about “planning to burn down the Presidential Office” while they themselves are planning to run for the presidency in the forthcoming presidential election. Yaung said DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and former Premier Su Tseng-chang appeased their supporters’ fanatical remarks of burning down the office of the president without taking concrete actions to talk them into using more rational and peaceful means to share their views. Both Tsai and Su, who are fighting for the DPP nomination as the party’s candidate for the next election, do not deserve to run for president if they condone violent talk or actions towards the office they are trying to win, Yaung said. He expressed his views in an interview with CTV. Yaung, who recently stepped down as the nation’s top public health official, said he was not criticizing Tsai and Su because they have been backing some TV commentators’ attacks on himself and the Department of Health (DOH). The core of the issue is whether either of the two are suitable to serve as the nation’s president if they refuse to dissuade their followers from taking violent and drastic action, possibly endangering the public. Concerning his filing of a lawsuit against seven pro-DPP TV commentators for their baseless criticism of the safety of the flu vaccines used in Taiwan, Yaung said he had been planning to take the legal action as far back as six months ago.

But he decided to postpone the move for fear of diverting public attention as the DOH had been busy battling the H1N1 epidemic at its height. Political talk show host Cheng Hung-yi and six guests invited to his program spread false information by exaggerating the dangers of getting vaccinated, said Yaung. Their alarming statements were seen as the major cause of the slowdown in people getting vaccinated despite a public health campaign mounted by the government.

Yaung said he eventually filed the lawsuit after the Lancet, the authoritative medical journal published in Britain, confirmed with data that people refusing to take vaccinations may face much greater risks. For Taiwan, a total of 74 people on the island have died of the flu in the period since July 2010, including six who lost their lives last week. All of the six did not have anti-flu shots administered as urged by the DOH. The commentators, who purportedly regard themselves as knowing everything in the universe, also told their supporters that they will soon be locked in jails because they made public calls to boycott the vaccinations, Yaung said. Yaung said the “famous mouths” — a term used by Taiwanese people to refer to the commentators on TV shows, made made an elaborate effort to mislead and cheat their fans and instigate public sentiments for riots. People who have violated the rules as stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Communicable Disease Control Act, only face a maximum fine of NT$500,000 without possibility of being imprisoned, Yaung clarified. No political figures should mislead their supporters simply because they themselves have chosen to stay in a specific political camp, he said. Fighting epidemics is a highly specialized challenge and it should not be contaminated and swayed by biased political stands and twisted views, Yaung stressed. Yaung was rated as the most popular Cabinet official and there were calls for him to run for a seat in the Legislative Yuan to continue his public service. Concerning his own future plans, Yaung said he is going back to his teaching job with no interest of entering politics.