TAICHUNG, Taiwan -- Taiwanese presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen is planning to pick Chen Chien-jen, a venerated epidemiologist, as her running mate, according to local media reports on Friday.
Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail in the central city of Taichung Friday morning, Tsai did not confirm or deny the reports, but said it will not be long before she announces her vice presidential candidate.
Tsai, the chairwoman of the main opposition party, the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, has been leading comfortably in the polls against Eric Chu, the chairman and presidential candidate of the ruling Nationalists, known as the Kuomintang (KMT).
The island's presidential and legislative elections will be held together on Jan. 16.
Chen, 64, is the vice president of the prestigious Academia Sinica, the highest academic institution in Taiwan. Previously, he served as a senior official under former DPP President Chen Shui-bian, at one point as minister of the department of health and then as chief of the National Science Council.
He has a doctorate in epidemiology and human genetics from Johns Hopkins University, and first garnered fame for his efforts to help contain the local outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which incited panic among the Taiwanese public, in 2003.
His upcoming nomination was first reported by Taiwan's mass circulation United Daily News on Friday morning, and several local media organizations have picked up the story.