Three candidates are running in the Jan. 11 presidential election — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) — but the general consensus is that Tsai and Han are the main contenders.
In other words, the question is whether Taiwanese will re-elect Tsai or vote for China’s representative in Taiwan; side with the US or with China; and continue with human rights, freedom and democracy or choose the autocracy and bondage of communism.
Voters are scrutinizing everything about the candidates through a magnifying glass — national vision, political views, educational background, actions and statements — and the candidates have no choice but to accept the merciless scrutiny.
When Han framed himself as an “everyman” during last year’s mayoral campaign, he placed himself in stark contrast with the perception of Tsai as the privileged daughter of a wealthy family.
As a result, the public is excited to see if the presidential election will become a fight between the “everyman” and the “daughter of a wealthy family.”
People do not choose the families that they are born into: Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, some are born into middle-class families and others are born into single-parent families or broken homes.
That people are all born equal does not mean they are all born into the same circumstances, but they all have without question the right to life, to liberty, to the pursuit of happiness, to an education, to vote and to be elected.
Tsai comes from a wealthy family and inherited considerable wealth from her father — she is now a single woman worth several hundred million New Taiwan dollars.
To be born wealthy or become rich does not make you a bad person, as can be seen from a comparison of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) with former Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co chairman Wei Ying-chun (魏應充): The two made their fortunes in very different ways, and one has been met with great approval from society, while the other has been met with great disapproval.
Han is accusing Tsai of having bought 15 plots of land in a rezoning area in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖) when she was 33 years old, but if the deal passed through the strict tax evasion and special privilege controls, everything should be on the up and up.
Tsai has too much money: Is that the best complaint Han can come up with?
It is both ironic and absurd that Han — someone who likes to refer to himself as an “everyman” and a “spokesperson for the everyman” — has been exposed by a series of revelations, like peeling the layers off an onion, not to be an outsider or “common man,” but an insider with connections to the wealthy and powerful.
As has now been revealed, the naked truth is that Han and the everyman inhabit different universes. The real problem is not whether Victoria Academy — the bilingual school that Han and his wife, Lee Chia-fen (李佳芬), run in Yunlin County — is a school for the wealthy, the problem is whether Han and his wife enjoy special privileges.
Would anyone walking in from the street be able to rent 18,006 ping (59,524m2) from state-run Taiwan Sugar Corp for NT$8 per ping per month?
Likewise, the real problem is not that Lee bought a farmhouse in Yunlin County’s Gukeng Township (古坑), but that she illegally expanded the farmhouse into a luxurious mansion without getting into trouble for doing so.
When Han bought a luxurious apartment in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) for NT$72 million (US$2.36 million at the current exchange rate) when he was unemployed, the problem was not “power,” but “money”: Did he pressure state-run Taiwan Fertilizer Co into lending him 20 percent of the sum?
It seems that the election battle between Tsai and Han is not going to be between a daughter of a wealthy family and an everyman after all: It is going to be between the bona fide daughter of a wealthy family and a fake everyman.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors and former National Tsing Hua University professor.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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