Annihilate Wei Chuan Movement Successful:
Food Safety Still Needs Work
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 31, 2014
Executive Summary: With everyone calling for blood, the Ting Hsin Group finally bowed
before the wrath of public opinion. It announced its withdrawal from
Taipei 101. At the same time, former Ting Hsin chairman Wei Ying-chong
was indicted by the Changhua District Prosecutors Office, who demanded a
30 year prison sentence. The "Annihilate Wei Chuan movement” has
reached a critical stage. But the government apparently considers this
insufficient. Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ho wants to the Wei family to
divest itself of its holdings in Taipei 101. There is even talk about
forcing it to "leave Taiwan." Such ruthlessness is uncalled for. Such
matters should be handled according to the rule of law.
Full Text Below:
With everyone calling for blood, the Ting Hsin Group finally bowed before the wrath of public opinion. It announced its withdrawal from Taipei 101. At the same time, former Ting Hsin chairman Wei Ying-chong was indicted by the Changhua District Prosecutors Office, who demanded a 30 year prison sentence. The "Annihilate Wei Chuan movement” has reached a critical stage. But the government apparently considers this insufficient. Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ho wants to the Wei family to divest itself of its holdings in Taipei 101. There is even talk about forcing it to "leave Taiwan." Such ruthlessness is uncalled for. Such matters should be handled according to the rule of law.
Ting Hsin finds itself in its current “Annihilate Wei Chuan” predicament because it neglected corporate ethics and social responsibility. It has only itself to blame. As a "prodigal son," Taiwan's Ting Hsin Group once sported a halo. It was treated with deference wherever it went. But it failed to cherish this special honor. It engaged in conspicuous consumption. Eventually even the company slogan, "The food industry is one of conscience," was totally discredited. It introduced rancid oil into Taiwan, contaminating the entire market. The current crisis has rung down calamity upon the food industry and the general public. No one has escaped unscathed. The image of Taiwan's food brands has been devastated. Forcing Ting Hsin to relinquish control of Taipei 101 hardly makes up for the damage it has done.
As Central Bank President Perng Huai-nan said, Ting Hsin "returned to Taiwan empty-handed." It has yet to bring back any funds. It raised 17 billion NTD against the issue of Taiwan Depositary Receipts (TDR). It re-used this "first pot of gold" as equity for Taipei 101 shares. It repeatedly leveraged itself to the hilt. The most distressing aspect is that the Wei family purchased ten units in the Depo complex using only 1% of its own money. It used bank loans to indulge in real estate speculation all across the island. According to statistics, the Wei family owns 25 units of luxury housing on Taiwan. In the name of investments, it borrowed huge sums to purchase land zoned for industrial use, then had them rezoned for commercial use and raked in huge profits. As a result, adding up the bill for this predatory "prodigal son" is an unending task.
The government is attempting to determine just how much Ting Hsin owes. But the government must remember what the food safety crisis is all about. Ting Hsing deserves to be punished for its crimes. But opportunistic downstream industries, underground factories, and rancid oil recycling plants are flourishing. Ting Hsin is hardly the only company that must be punished and stopped. The loopholes in the government's food safety management program must be plugged. Consumer confidence must be restored. Corporate social responsibility must be reestablished. Informed consumer defenses must be constructed. These are more important than "annihilating Ting Hsin."
Take Japan, for example. In 2000 and 2002, the Snow Brand Company experienced two contaminated dairy product crises. Japanese television channels refused to advertise Snow Brand products for two years. The government forced Snow Brand to divest itself of its subsidiaries. They were taken over by the Japan Dairy Association and the National Agricultural and Forestry Central Bank. Once ownership changed hands, new operators rehabilitated the Snow Brand image. The New Snow Brand publishes all its food manufacturing processes onlne. It allows people to visit its plant, on guided tours conducted by the director himself, to restore public trust in Snow Brand. In other words, the operators can be replaced, but the brands do not have to be destroyed. This helps ensure the employee's right to work.
In 2009, the Japanese government improved consumer protection by establishing a cabinet level Consumer Affairs Office. This provided consumers with comprehensive food safety regulation. The Consumer Affairs Agency's responsibilty includes the collection and analysis of consumer opinion surveys, and the timely publication of food safety information to alert the public. It includes a Consumer Safety Commission of Inquiry to review public complaints on a regular basis. If it perceives a problem, it investigates the cause. It adopts a preventive spirit. It establishes a consumer oriented food safety system.
The Ma government has announced the establishment of an inter-ministerial Food Safety Office under the Executive Yuan. The NSB Integrated Bureau of Investigation, the NPA, the Coast Guard, the Immigration Agency, and the Military Police Headquarters will establish a "warning report" to expand intelligence gathering on food safety. But its members will be drawn from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Justice and the Council of Agriculture, Fair and objective experts, academics, and private citizens will not participate. Therefore the "warning report" will merely be a task force without institutional planning. The Jiang cabinet must offer a more efficient approach. It must enable the Food Safety Office to become truly active. It must establish regulations. It must manage import sources. as well as upstream and downstream food industry causes and effects. It must tighten inspections, encourage whistleblowers, and listen to public complaints. This will make the food safety net even tighter, leaving unscrupulous manufacturers little opportunity to take advantage of the public.
The entire affair is heartbreaking. A contaminated cooking oil crisis led to a collective Taiwanese food industry attempt to "annihilate Ting Hsin." it revealed how the banking sector fought to offer the Wei family huge sums of money, resulting in a huge loan scandal. Given today's situation, do bankers feel no shame?
2014.10.31 01:32 am