The popular Top Pot Bakery chain caused an outrage last week with its admission that it has been using artificial flavoring in products it advertised as “all-natural.”
The Taipei City Government’s Department of Health has since slapped the chain with a NT$180,000 fine for false advertising, with Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) asserting toughness in the city government’s handling of the incident and demanding that the bakery adopt a stringent refund plan.
“Top Pot Bakery set a bad example by mislabeling the ingredients in its baked goods. It was a dishonest, deceptive act,” Hau said on Tuesday.
Indeed, the chain needs be held responsible for deceiving consumers, and it is encouraging to see Hau carry out his duty as mayor by speaking for the protection of residents’ rights and showing uncompromising firmness on food safety.
However, as exasperated consumers expressed disbelief and panned the chain for its fraudulent behavior, some were struck by a disturbing thought: They have become aware of how, for a long time, they have harbored a double standard toward politicians, indulging their shamelessly deceitful rhetoric and conduct without taking action to deter them.
If people are upset over a bakery’s deceptive advertising, why are they not angry at the misleading claims, brazen lies and broken promises of politicians?
Let’s take President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as an example: Elected as the head of the state, Ma has disappointed voters and set a bad example by failing to make good on his election-time promises.
To name a few, he has failed to deliver on his “6-3-3” campaign pledge — 6 percent annual GDP growth, an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent and US$30,000 annual per capita income; he has failed to donate half his salary as he had said he would if he fell short of the “6-3-3” targets; and he broke his pledge not to double as president and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman.
The government under his leadership has failed to seek compensation from Beijing for the damage caused to Taiwanese firms in 2008 over the imports of melamine-tainted milk products; failed to honor pledges to create a “golden decade”; and forsook national interests by resorting to back-room dealings.
Having lost much of their credibility because of broken promises and vacillating policies, it is evident that both Ma and his administration are not just incompetent, but also insincere.
Ma would not have gotten away with his unscrupulous behavior had it not been for lawmakers who serve as his accomplices in the Legislative Yuan, blindly endorsing any policy put forth by their party headquarters and sacrificing the nation’s interests.
Almost always, legislators who fail to serve the public and keep the executive branch in check complete their terms, enjoying the privileges that come with their status as lawmakers, while the taxpayers who voted them into office and pay their salaries continue to suffer.
Democracy is more than just people casting votes. While voters know they are responsible for electing public servants, they should be equally aware that they can recall any official who forsakes their duty to serve the public’s best interests.
Luckily, a recall campaign recently launched by the civic group Constitution 133 Alliance has reminded the public of its power to root out incompetent lawmakers.
As screenwriter and author Neil Peng (馮光遠) put it: “Ma has set the nation on fire on numerous occasions and we, the people, are always the ones left to put out the flames.”
The time is now for Taiwanese to exercise their right to recall lawmakers who are neither worthy of their pay nor respectful of their constituencies.