If we assume that Taiwanese legislators — who are already notorious for fighting in the legislature — know what should be said and done in the Legislative Yuan by now, then comments made during Wednesday’s session are disappointing.
The comments in question are not those made by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who posed questions in English to Taiwan’s Representative to the US, King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), and asked him to answer in English during a session of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
The outrageous comments came instead from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) — who asked King to address long-circulating rumors that he and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) are lovers — and DPP Legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智), who followed up on the issue and asked King if Ma was gay.
The questions were shocking not because they were directed at the president or were politically incorrect, but because they came from the mouths of lawmakers, and in particular, because one of the lawmakers represents a political party which has always pursued gender equality and respect for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.
The sexual orientation of Ma and King — or anyone else — is irrelevant to their job in government and is a private issue that should be respected.
Why it became a topic of interest for the lawmakers at a time of increasing awareness and respect for sexual diversity and gender identity, and why the lawmakers did not learn from past experience, is beyond comprehension.
Just last year, former DPP chairman Shih Ming-te (施明德) was grilled by almost everyone, including KMT members, when he raised questions about former DPP chairperson and DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) sexual orientation during the presidential election campaign.
In May, DPP Legislator Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) was criticized for discriminatory comments in his interpellation of former Mainland Affairs Council minister Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) on cross-strait affairs, when the lawmaker said Lai should not have stripped off her dress when China only wanted her to take off a single piece of clothing.
Legislators should stop making discriminatory comments and posing invasive questions about people’s private lives, otherwise they will shame a country which prides itself on respect for the universal value of human rights.
The important matter that needed to be discussed on Wednesday was not King’s sexual orientation, but rather his competence and expertise on Taiwan-US relations, and whether he was appointed as representative to Washington simply because of his close ties to Ma.
The real question to be asked is how King communicated with US officials and responded to the US’ concerns about Taiwan’s relationship with Beijing over disputes in the East and South China seas, and the broken promise about providing a sufficient military budget.
In other words, the real questions that need to be asked are the ones Hsiao raised, despite her being criticized for demanding that King respond in English, which was somehow interpreted as an inappropriate and unnecessary attempt to humiliate King.
The Legislative Yuan, as well as the mechanism of interpellation, was established for legislators with the electorate’s mandate to make laws and monitor the administrative branch, not to humiliate government officials with irrelevant and sensational comments to get themselves on TV.
Only when lawmakers realize this can the legislature renew its tarnished image and reputation, and play a healthy and leading role in making Taiwan a better country.