Chair of Taiwan metro-card firm resigns over controversial travel card scandal

24 September 2015 / 1 year 4 weeks ago

The China Post/Asia News Network
24 September 2015

EasyCard Corp.'s former co-Chairman Tai Chi-chuan tendered his resignation yesterday over controversies the company courted by releasing a metro card featuring a Japanese porn star. 

Tai also resigned as a board member of EasyCard Corp. and of EasyCard Investment Holdings Co., Ltd., the parent company of the metro card issuer.

"I am sincerely sorry for the controversies and the squandering of social resources caused by this incident," Tai said in a statement. "I do not intend to cause any more delays to the mayor's policy address or the budgetary reviews for the various departments of the Taipei City Government."

The statement came one day after Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je told the Taipei City Council that he had asked Tai to quit. The Taipei City Government holds - directly and through the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) - a 40-per cent stake in EasyCard Investment and has the power to appoint the chairman and senior executives at the company and EasyCard Corp.

EasyCard Corp. announced that EasyCard Investment Chairman Lin Shang-kai has stood in as acting chairman of EasyCard Corp. Lin is expected to be formally appointed as the chairman at the company's board meeting on Friday. TRTC Chairman Hochen Tan is expected to take Lin's place as chairman of EasyCard Investment.

Tai's resignation could mark the end of the "Hatanogate" controversy that has plagued EasyCard Corp. and the city government for nearly a month. In August the company invited Japanese porn star Yui Hatano to be featured on two limited-edition metro cards slated to be sold on Sept. 1. News the Hatano cards broke in late August, triggering a backslash from detractors who saw the cards as damaging to Taipei's reputation. Tai's assertion on Aug. 26 that Hatano was picked due to her "pure and fresh" image was discredited with the discovery that one of the cards used the cover image of one of the actress's adult movies.

Ko initially supported EasyCard's decision to issue the card, at one point suggesting that the controversy was the result of a successful PR strategy that helped draw a lot of media attention "for merely NT$450,000 (S$19,400)." The mayor later adjusted his stance and said on the eve of the cards' launch that they should not be publicly sold. EasyCard Corp. put the cards on sale via telephone at midnight on Sept. 1 and they were sold out within hours.

Ko withstood calls for Tai's removal as EasyCard chairman until Sept 15, when he announced his "suggestion" that the company demote Tai to general manager.

The Hatano card controversy came at a difficult time for Ko as he was gearing up for his first policy address and budget review at the Taipei City Council.

Taipei City councilors across the political spectrum criticised Ko over "Hatanogate" and his initial decision to keep Tai in the company. The friction between the mayor and the council reached a boiling point on Sept. 17, when Kuomintang (KMT) Councilor Hsu Hung-ting, using a sexually suggestive term, insinuated that mayor has "special relations" with Tai. Ko slammed his fist onto a table after Hsu's comment and the council meeting was adjourned early. The mayor later apologised to the council for his brash behaviour.

When asked by Councilor Hsu Shu-hua of the Democratic Progressive Party on Monday whether Tai would take on the EasyCard general manager post after resigning as chairman, Ko said "he will not."

Join in the talk