Abuse of power? Row raised over Taiwan Palace Museum director’s move to Beijing shortly after rule change

Taiwan museum says Feng Ming-chu herself changed regulation that allowed her to take on new role without seeking its approval beforehand

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 September, 2016, 11:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 September, 2016, 10:03pm

A job offer to Taiwan’s former Palace Museum director inviting her to become an advisor to Beijing’s own Palace Museum, has sparked a row on the island.

Hong Kong-born Feng Ming-chu , 66, recently took up the offer with the Beijing museum, with which she had worked closely with during her four-year stint as the Taiwan museum’s director.

Her move comes less than four months after her resignation from the Taiwan museum in May, following a transfer of power when the Democratic Progessive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen took office as the self-ruled island’s new leader.

“What she did would hurt [Taiwan’s] interests,” DPP legislator Ho Hsin-chun said on Friday, adding that she was concerned Feng might leak the museum’s security deployment details and other secrets.

Under Taiwanese law, former government officials are required, for a period of time ranging between three months and three years after leaving their post, to obtain approval from the agencies they previously worked for before visiting mainland China.

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The time frame that Feng, who was considered a government official in her former role as Taiwan’s Palace Museum director, was subjected to was only three months. As a result, she did not require the museum’s approval before leaving for the mainland.

But DPP legislator Lo Chih-cheng said Feng had herself changed the museum’s regulations from three years to just three months shortly before she stepped down in May.

“This is ridiculous; what she did was an abuse of power,” Lo said.

In a statement, the museum said that under the present regulations, Feng was not required to obtain its approval as she had already left her post more than three months ago.

But it also noted that the regulations were changed by Feng, who in April approved the time frame to be altered from three years to one year, and on May 13 signed another document to change that period to just three months instead.

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“We hope she will keep classified information and protect the museum’s interests,” the statement said.

In response, Feng said the Beijing post she has taken on is an unpaid honorary position and that the Beijing museum had also invited two world-class scholars to serve as advisors to its research institute.

Opposition Kuomintang legislators said that as long as Feng had abided by the rules, she had done no wrong in accepting the honorary role.

“After all, there is no border in terms of culture,” KMT legislator Chen Chao-ming said.

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Feng, who worked for the Taiwan museum for 38 years, has previously been criticised by the ruling independence-leaning DPP for cooperating too closely with the Beijing museum.

Many treasures and artefacts in the island’s museum today were from the Beijing museum. Late KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek had brought them over to Taiwan shortly before civil war ended in 1949.