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January 13, 2005

Taipei mayor postpones Australia trip after medical scandal

From: Channel News Asia, Singapore - Jan 13, 2005

TAIPEI : Taipei's mayor Ma Ying-jeou, under fire over a scandal in which city hospitals turned away a critically-injured girl, has postponed a trip to Australia to deal with the issue.

"We owe too much to the little girl and we have failed her. She was already suffering a miserable life before being injured (by her abusive father)," Ma told reporters.

"I am really sorry for not being able to provide her with medical treatment in Taipei."

Ma was scheduled to leave for Australia late Thursday for a meeting on the Deaflympics games. He had also planned to visit Thailand and make a transit stop in Hong Kong.

The mayor said he could not cancel the trip since the Taiwanese capital will host the 2009 Deaflympics but would postpone it by two days.

Ma had cancelled a lecture tour to Hong Kong scheduled this week after allegedly being denied a visa over his outspoken criticism of China's policy towards Taiwan.

The Hong Kong-born Ma suspected Beijing was behind the visa denial because he had criticized China's anti-secession law as "unnecessary and unwise."

Ma's popularity has hit a record low after the four-year-old girl with critical brain injuries was turned away from major hospitals in Taipei Monday, according to a survey released Thursday.

The United Daily News survey found his disapproval rate rose nine percentage points from last month to 26 percent in the wake of the scandal, which provoked a public outcry.

The popularity of Ma, under fire from the public and the Taipei city council for his weak response to the incident, is now at its lowest ebb since he took office six years ago, according to the survey.

Some 67 percent of those interviewed, however, said they were still satisfied with his performance, an eight percent decline from last month.

The girl, suffering from severe brain damage after being beaten by her drunken father, was referred to a hospital two hours away in central Taiwan after all major hospitals in Taipei refused to treat her.

Hospitals had claimed there was no space to accommodate the girl for urgent brain surgery. She was reported to be in critical condition Thursday after operations in a private hospital in Taichung.

Ma has apologized to the people of Taipei and to the girl's family, admitting it was "beyond comprehension" that the incident took place in a city with Taiwan's best medical facilities.

Ma, a vice-chairman of the main opposition Kuomintang party, has been tipped to run for president in 2008.


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