Presidential Office calls for restraint after Kaohsiung speaker death

CNA file photo of the Presidential Office in Taipei

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Presidential Office on Monday urged members of the public to refrain from making controversial comments following the death of Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Hsu Kun-yuan (許崑源), a member of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

Hsu fell to his death from his residence on Saturday, hours after Kaohsiung citizens voted to recall KMT Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜).

“All loss of life is a mournful tragedy regardless of party affiliation,” Presidential Office spokesman Ting Yun-kung (丁允恭) said.

Supporters of different political parties are urged to remain calm and act rationally instead of making controversial remarks about the deceased, Ting said.

Ting’s comments came after KMT Chairman Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣) urged President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to stop members of her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), from making controversial comments relating to Hsu’s death.

Chiang was apparently referring to remarks made by DPP Taipei City Councilor Liang Wen-jie (梁文傑), who in a Facebook post made Saturday shortly after Hsu’s death, questioned whether it was connected to political gambling.

Facing criticism, Liang later removed the controversial post and apologized publicly, admitting his accusation was “ungrounded” and “disrespectful” to Hsu’s family.

Hsu, 63, a seven-term Kaohsiung city councilor and two-term speaker, fell from his 17th-floor residence at 8:45 p.m. Saturday and died on impact, Kaohsiung prosecutors said.

Authorities are investigating the incident, police said. It remains unclear whether the speaker’s death was associated with the recall vote against Han.

Hsu had been a strong supporter of Han since the latter took over the KMT Kaohsiung branch in September 2017. He also played an important role in Han’s surprise victory in the mayoral election in November 2018.

Earlier Saturday, 97 percent of Kaohsiung citizens who cast ballots voted to recall Han.

If there are no legal challenges to the recall vote, the Central Election Commission is required by election laws to hold a by-election by Sept. 12 to select a new mayor who will serve out the remainder of Han’s term, which runs through 2022.

Meanwhile, Han is prohibited from running for the mayoral position in Kaohsiung for a four-year period.

Chiang said Monday that he met with Han the previous day and they discussed potential candidates for the by-election.

The KMT chair also announced that the party will hold a Central Standing Committee meeting in Kaohsiung on Wednesday to gain a local perspective and as a first step in winning back the support of Kaohsiung citizens.

The KMT Central Standing Committee meets every Wednesday, usually at the party’s Taipei headquarters.

Meanwhile, a KMT press release on Monday denied media reports that Chiang would run as the party’s candidate in Kaohsiung.

In the DPP camp, Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), who lost to Han in the November 2018 mayoral election, is being touted as a possible candidate for the by-election.