Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) team this week released a video to commemorate the first anniversary of his inauguration that received 2 million views within 15 hours of its release, something that no other politician in the nation could probably equal at this point in time.
In the video, Ko said his performance might not have been and will not be perfect, and he needs to improve, but he also pointed out something undeniably substantial to today’s politics in Taiwan.
No doubt the video is a political marketing move, aiming at refreshing the public’s perception and imagination of a different, new and “white” (in contrast to green or blue) force that Ko claims to represent.
Titled Ko Wen-je, Reflections, the video shows Ko reflecting on some shortcomings that he says he needs to work on, which are, curiously, mostly personal characteristics.
Or maybe not so curious after all. Impertinent, short-tempered, disinclined to compliment and temperamentally blaming subordinates are among the traits Ko cites in the video, accompanied by video footage of negative news coverage.
By focusing on Ko’s sometimes awkward personal characteristics, the video implicitly reminds us, as perhaps every voter in the nation knows, that Ko reportedly has Asperger’s syndrome. The video also appears to be a sly bid to evoke compassion for something that Ko was born with, yet the truth is that Ko has clearly stirred up more controversies caused by his temper than the few highlighted in the video.
He said that he has always tried to “sidestep” women and the gender issue (the video uses the controversy over the charity EasyCard set featuring Japanese adult video star Yui Hatano) whenever he can because he tends to “put his foot in his mouth.”
It is laudable that Ko appears to at least know where he falls short. However, it is regrettable that he stops short of stating what he thinks about frequently “misspeaking” on sensitive subjects. Controversies raised by Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs Director Ni Chong-hua (倪重華) went unmentioned, as did the Taipei Dome debacle.
Ko’s superficial and obscurantist acceptance or even admiration of Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) authoritarian rule is equally upsetting. Just a day before the video was released, he said in response to New Power Party legislative candidate Freddy Lim’s (林昶佐) idea that the Taipei memorial to Chiang be removed that people need to “learn tolerance.”
Before the election campaign season began, Ko promised not to stump for candidates for the Jan. 16 presidential and legislative elections, but he has shown up at various candidates’ rallies or events. Pressed by journalists about that promise, he said: “[People] should not be so finicky about it.”
Some viewers have asked why Ko has not been more strongly criticized by the young online community for his broken promises, given the mockery unloaded on other politicians with similar failings.
The answer could be contained in another statement from Ko in the video: “Once the public’s trust is lost, the government cannot get anything done.”
One year after Ko’s inauguration, many people still believe that Ko can improve and achieve something different from those who have come before him or whose party has entrenched interests that cannot be untangled.
It is the same reason that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has so much trouble convincing the public that its cross-strait policies are really Taiwan-centered and complains that “rational” listeners no longer believe its hype.
Trust is difficult to build, but it can be easily shattered. Many who have seen Ko’s video — and the many more who have not — hope Ko really understands this lesson and that the next government will as well.
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