A judicial investigation has been launched into Hsinchu County Deputy Commissioner Chen Chien-hsien (陳見賢) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on the allegation that he spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines donated by Japan.
The investigation was launched after members of the public reported to authorities that Chen originated the online rumor that distorted Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi’s words about the vaccine donation, implying that the Taiwanese government imposed limits and did not ask for more vaccines.
Asked about the issue, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday said the Criminal Investigation Bureau had initiated an investigation to gather evidence and check the complaints filed by the public.
Photo: Huang Mei-chu, Taipei Times
People told authorities that Chen allegedly began spreading the false information on Monday via the Line messaging app and that other KMT members in the county government also allegedly disseminated the message.
Chen’s initial message was allegedly circulated by KMT Hsinchu County chapter section head Hsu Yao-yi (許舜儀), KMT Jhubei City Councilor Tai Pei-ju (戴佩如), Jhudong Township Office first secretary Tao Keng-sheng (陶更生) and other KMT members, reports said.
Chen in the original message allegedly wrote: “Japan’s foreign minister was asked at the [Japanese] Diet: ‘Why only donate 1.24 million vaccines to Taiwan?’ He answered that the Taiwanese government did not want to have too many of it, only enough for June, that Taiwanese officials said Taiwan will have its own domestic vaccine production starting in July.”
Chen allegedly added: “Taiwan’s decisionmakers are in it to reap personal financial gains, to profit from a national disaster, make money off dead people.”
“These people shall have their families terminated, without any children, and no grandchildren,” he concluded, attaching the purported video of Motegi speaking at the Diet.
After the message went viral, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement late on Monday, saying that Chen deliberately misinterpreted Motegi’s statement to manipulate public opinion for political purposes.
Su, when attending a legislative session on Tuesday, told reporters that the message was dealing in “vicious rumors,” adding that people can check the accurate translation of Motegi’s remarks online.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) yesterday accused the KMT of engaging in “fabrication of reprehensible disinformation for political motivation” to vilify the government.
“We see the KMT people, from the deputy head of Hsinchu County to local councilor and party workers, working to spread this toxic, vicious rumor. They even tried to falsely accuse the foreign minister of a country friendly to Taiwan,” Kuan said.
“This shows the malice in their character, of moral degradation in politicians and whether they have feelings of shame at all. The KMT from its rank-and-file to its high officials has perpetrated such serious rumor-mongering and false accusations... I urge the KMT chairman to apologize to the public and to Japan’s foreign minister. Or do they want people to see that the KMT have sunk to such unethical, low moral standards?” Kuan said.
Chen yesterday said he would cooperate with the investigation.
He said he had done nothing wrong, adding that he had asked his friends to translate Motegi’s words and the translation was what he wrote in the message.
Chen said he disseminated the message, “as I was angered by what was said, and I circulated it on Line groups with my friends and relatives. One of the groups has local councilors of both the pan-green and pan-blue camps, so I knew what I was doing.”
He added: “When Japan got hit by an earthquake in 2011, Taiwanese donated billions of New Taiwan dollars to Japan. However, now the Japanese government only gave us 1.24 million vaccines. That is far too little for Taiwan’s 23 million population.”
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