There has been much discussion about Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) performance on Aug. 21 at an American Chamber of Commerce luncheon, at which he gave a speech in a random mixture of Chinese and English.
Someone posted a comment online saying that Han had only attended evening classes, not a full-time course, at Soochow University’s Department of English.
On Monday last week, Han responded by posting on Facebook a photograph of his graduation certificate and saying that he was consulting with his lawyer about suing the person who had defamed him.
Han is a well-known public figure, and, as the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, he is a possible future head of state. As such, any kind of scandal, slip of the tongue, unsightly behavior, or irregular or unlawful acts on his part are excellent material for the media to work with.
As long as it is newsworthy enough, any such issue will catch fire and keep on burning.
This is all the more so because Han often reacts inappropriately.
He has a habit of doing things that damage his personal image and credibility. This can be seen from his dwindling opinion poll ratings.
For example, 59.2 percent of respondents in a poll released by news Web site Formosa at the end of July said that they did not believe Han.
Han’s team should take this factor into account before suing the person who posted the “evening classes” comment, and decide whether it was a political opponent trying to defame Han or just an ordinary person who, in the heat of the moment, rushed to post without checking for proof.
The Han camp keeps portraying the doubts and questions raised in various circles as slander, but this will do nothing to bolster his standing in the polls. When a crisis erupts around any politician, it is bound to be accompanied by plenty of rumors and misinformation, but there will also be genuine questions that ordinary people are wondering about.
When doubts exist in many people’s minds, they can easily give rise to negative publicity. If these doubts are not handled appropriately, whispers will turn into open talk. Han’s reputation could suffer and his presidential bid could be over before serious campaigning even gets underway.
The best way for Han to hold his ground is not to counter defamation with litigation, because as soon as people hear that he wants to go to court, they will start asking why he does not go ahead and sue.
For example, KMT Central Review Committee member Chen Hung-chang (陳宏昌) on Aug. 11 accused Han of spending most of his time playing mahjong, drinking and womanizing.
Han’s campaign office said that it would sue Chen for defamation unless he apologized within three days, but it has done nothing since.
The next day, former Kaohsiung County commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) basically repeated Chen’s accusations and then went further by calling Han “incompetent and untrustworthy,” but Han’s office said nothing in response.
In a third example, the Presidential Office has twice invited Han to take legal action over his accusation that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration had installed a tracking device in his car, but Han has made no such move.
In view of all this, Han’s team needs to think long and hard about whether to sue the person who raised doubts about Han’s education.
Chen Kuan-fu is a research student in National Taipei University’s law department.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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