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BooksTaipei government criticized over book on virus response

Taipei government criticized over book on virus response

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  • By Cheng Ming-hsiang and Kayleigh Madjar / Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Taipei City Government has been accused of using public funds to glorify a mayoral hopeful, after it last week published a book lauding the city’s COVID-19 response for more than NT$3,000 (US$107.06) per copy.

Critics on Sunday decried the book, titled Record of Resilience: Documenting Taipei’s Pandemic Response (堅韌的疫誌—台北市防疫紀實), as an attempt to pave the way to city hall for Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊).

Huang — who is expected to run for mayor in November — is mentioned 44 times throughout the book and in all but one of its 15 chapters, said Taipei City Councilor Chien Shu-pei (簡舒培) of the Democratic Progressive Party.

Photo: Cheng Ming-hsiang, Taipei Times

Chien cited excerpts calling Huang a “global pioneer in proposing quarantine hotels” and praising her “beautiful record in the first half of the [COVID-19] pandemic, laying a solid foundation for epidemic prevention in Taipei.”

At a release event for the book on Thursday last week at the Bopiliao Historical Block in Wanhua District (萬華), the area where an outbreak began in May last year, Huang said that this was where she and the first responders “wrote history.”

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) tasked Huang with compiling the book, which was published by the Taipei Department of Information and Tourism.

The city spent NT$1.53 million to publish 500 copies of the 320-page book, which it is selling for NT$350, working out to a cost of NT$3,060 per copy.

The department said the cost was mainly due to the project’s scope, as many people were interviewed for the book.

The number of books in the initial print run was determined based on the funds remaining following editorial and design costs, it added.

Chien also criticized Ko’s apparent hypocrisy in publishing a book when he has in the past canceled publication subscriptions and declined to issue paper stimulus vouchers.

The book also leaves out controversy surrounding the city’s vaccine allocations last year, contrasting its stated purpose as a record of the outbreak, she added.

Huang on Sunday denied that the book was meant for self-promotion, saying that it is a record of the city’s pandemic response and her colleagues’ recollections of their collective resilience during hard times.

It would hopefully serve as a model for future administrations when facing their own outbreaks, she said, joking that if it were truly just about her, it would be called “Vivian Huang’s Pandemic Diary.”

Taipei City Government spokeswoman Chen Chih-han (陳智菡) said that the city has accumulated valuable experience in pandemic prevention over the past year, and created the book as a good learning resource.

More than 100 first responders were interviewed for the book, which also recounted the actions of city agencies, medical institutions and private organizations, Chen said.

As a commander of the response team, Huang invariably played a prominent role in the book, she added.

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