Beimen station impresses
I have been impressed with the newest addition to the Taipei MRT system, the Songshan Line, especially with the Beimen, or North Gate, Station (北門站).
Once enclosed within a city wall, Taipei has lost virtually all of this Qing Dynasty construction, but thankfully Beimen Station preserves and showcases some of the wall. The station floor is glass-like in appearance and provides a view down to the remnants of the actual city wall as passengers walk overhead.
Explanations in Chinese and English inform commuters about the historic significance of the site, the former city wall and the North Gate. Well done. I totally enjoyed this new station and learning about the city’s past at a site with a link to the future.
Virtue of ending donations
A few days ago I noticed a newspaper headline reading: “Donations exceed NT$10 million — [Greater Tainan Mayor] William Lai [賴清德] closes account.” This is precisely the kind of virtuous circle Taiwan needs.
As we all know, independent Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) took the lead in ending fund-raising activities last week and closed the account he had set up to receive donations.
He said: “Money is like the one ring to rule them all — once you put it on, you can’t make yourself take it off again.”
That was a very intelligent thing to say. A lot of politicians have the gift of gab. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is one of them, but we have all seen how his approval rating has dropped to 9 percent, the lowest of any president ever, because he has lost all credibility. So what if he is a good talker?
Ko, however, does what he says he will do — or perhaps he does it first, before he starts talking about it. He is brave enough to reject the lure of donations and the opportunistic idea that even if he is not elected, he stands to make a pretty buck. To close an account to donations is a thing rarely seen in Taiwan — at least as far back as I can remember, I have never seen any such reports — and it has gained the approval of the general public.
Putting an end to contributions and keeping small donations from the general public for his own use is a good sign, while rejecting donations from big business so that they will not become a millstone around his neck that will potentially influence future policy decisions is a sign of foresight. Ko has done the right thing, and it has been widely reported in the media. Now William Lai is following his example, and this could be the beginning of a virtuous circle. Why? Because Lai has participated in many elections, but this is the first time he has ever stopped accepting donations.
Ko’s decision made Lai stop and think, so in a way, it could be said that Ko caused Lai to change, and now the two have set a shining example for other Taiwanese politicians to follow.
There is of course no way that we can force every candidate to follow suit, because they will all find themselves in different financial circumstances, and their ability to attract donations will also be different. However, at the very least, we can look at the candidates with access to a lot of money, and in particular those with access to the most money, and use this as one of the standards when deciding how to vote.
Politicians and media outlets in Taiwan should continue to work hard toward the creation of such a virtuous circle.
New Taipei City
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