Fri, Aug 06, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: This Hello Kitty era must end now

In the cramped living spaces of Japan, when a dog barks too much and annoys the neighbors, they can get a court order to force the animal's owner to have its vocal cords removed, thus silencing it.

If only such a remedy were at hand for Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).

There was a time when we used to look forward to news from the vice president, if only because it would give us a good laugh. The highlight from the first Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration must surely be Lu's telling a military academy that Taiwan had to be lovable like Hello Kitty and learn how to use its "soft power" -- whatever that is. The mixture of inanity and winsomeness in this particular example is, by the way, a Lu trademark.

But in the wake of the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Mindulle, things have gone beyond a joke. Lu has outdone herself in the wacky ideas department with her suggestion that the people of storm-devastated central Taiwan pick up sticks and move to Central America to farm for a few years to give the central region a chance to rest. At the same time she has managed to be deeply insulting and offensive to the inhabitants of the central area, in particular to the Aborigines.

This time last year, this newspaper made it quite clear that we thought that Chen would have been wise not to select Lu as a running mate for his second term. We preferred either Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) or Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌). The pan-blues were looking to fight the presidential election at the time on the issue of competence, and we thought that Lu's presence on the ticket hardly caused the government to shine in this area.

Nevertheless the president chose Lu a second time -- largely, we are led to believe, because he was reluctant to interfere with what had proved to be a winning combination.

In the end, Lu's presence on the ticket was not the drag it might have been, largely because she was kept quiet -- for which, much thanks. Since the election it has been a different story. Some of it was the kind of loopy nonsense we have become tired of even sneering at -- such as Lu's remarks that she was the primary target of the March 19 assassination attempt.

But Lu's post-storm remarks have shown someone with a seriously deficient grasp of reality, as well as a person chronically insensitive to the sensibilities of others -- the best example of this being her remarks, when faced with Aborigines demonstrating over her calling them the authors of their own misfortunes, that they should go back to singing and dancing (what they do best, in Lu's view) instead of protesting.

That this woman is the convener of the presidential offices' advisory group on human rights can hardly be appropriate, given that she displays both racial insensitivity and an attitude to solving problems beloved of the most disgusting tyrannies: shipping errant populations somewhere they won't do any more "harm."

But we might more usefully ask whether she ought to be vice president. The idea that she might succeed Chen is laughable. So it is something of a shame that this deadwood is occupying a position where another, younger talent might be groomed for succession.

It would be perhaps possible for Lu to "retire" for "health reasons." The problem is that her successor has to be nominated by the president and approved by the Legislative Yuan. Until the pan-greens control the legislature -- hopefully from next February, when the legislature elected in December actually takes office -- this will be an all but impossible task. Once the DPP and its allies control that body, however, pressure must be put on Lu to go.

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