Although Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) made all kinds of inappropriate statements during his campaign as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate, he had the common sense and courtesy to accept his defeat and congratulate his opponent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) after she won Saturday’s election.
As ugly as the campaign was, at least things concluded civilly, which is a testament to Taiwan’s democratic values.
By contrast, former KMT Taipei mayoral hopeful Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) is still refusing to give up his quest to invalidate the 2018 election results — even after a recount that went even further against him — and the High Court last month ruled the results valid.
For all his faults, at least Han respected Taiwan’s hard-won democracy and the opinion of Taiwanese voters, saying in his concession speech: “Taiwan’s democracy, freedom and rule of law are the most valuable treasures we have.”
The same cannot be said for his rabid supporters, as things turned outright nasty on the Internet afterward.
It is nothing new for people to say terrible things from behind a computer screen, but the amount of hate and divisiveness is alarming for Taiwan moving forward.
This nation’s society has always been fractured along political and ethnic lines, but even Han urged his supporters: “No matter what, when we wake up tomorrow, we still want to see a united Taiwan.”
Unfortunately, some people are not listening, and it is not just society being fractured — there have been many reports of families falling apart after the election results were announced.
Aside from condemning the young people of Taiwan or urging Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to hurry up and attack Taiwan, netizens unhappy with the results have been spreading rumors that the voting was rigged and the system was hacked to ensure Tsai’s victory.
Such remarks have almost become pro forma, and are unlikely to be taken seriously, but what should not be considered acceptable are the cowardly, brutal attacks on New Power Party legislator-elect Claire Wang (王婉諭) that harp upon the grisly 2016 murder of her three-year-old daughter, nicknamed Little Lightbulb (小燈泡).
It is one thing to question Wang’s credentials, given her lack of political experience, but the comments focused on her daughter’s death have gone too far, with some saying that she has two more children who could be slashed, others actually threatening to harm them and one person posting a photograph of Little Lightbulb’s body.
Some of these cowards only apologized after Wang took legal action on Monday, but at least one has refused to admit any wrongdoing and criticized her for daring to sue, before sinking even lower by adding that Little Lightbulb left this world because she knew her mother was no good.
Elections have always been emotional affairs, especially in Taiwan, but what does it say about this society that people are willing to sink to such depths?
Is it getting worse because people think they can hide behind their keyboards or computer monitors, or are the differences between the pan-blue and pan-green sides becoming even more irreconcilable?
Han might be right for once in saying that the people of Taiwan need to unite more than ever.
However, the public must remember that there is a very real threat, not from their fellow citizens, but from Beijing, which probably takes great delight in seeing Taiwanese bickering even though the results of the elections were not in China’s favor.
People need to take a step back and recognize where the real danger lies, before it is too late.
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