Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday apologized for an inaccurate picture that was used in campaign material in an attempt to end a week-long battle of rhetoric between the DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) over the prices of different persimmons.
In a recent campaign flyer printed in the format of a calendar, the DPP listed a dozen types of locally grown fruits, among them persimmons, that have plunged in price this year.
The persimmons shown on the flyer were non-astringent persimmons, which were being sold for at least 10 times the price of astringent persimmons, the fruit the DPP had meant to highlight.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the KMT subsequently accused the DPP of misleading the public by quoting incorrect prices and hurting farmers who grow non-astringent persimmons.
“I apologize for the misrepresentative picture and will ask our staff to be cautious with the information they put out in the future,” Tsai told an impromptu press conference in the afternoon.
The controversy over persimmon prices has taken center stage in the presidential campaign.
The KMT had demanded an apology to farmers about the flyer from the DPP, which, until yesterday, had refused to do so, saying the primary objective of the flyer was to highlight the supply and demand imbalance of Taiwan-grown fruits.
Citing “the Judgement of Solomon” — a biblical story in which King Solomon of Israel ruled in the case of two women who both claimed to be the mother of the same child — Tsai said the DPP was like the true mother who did not want to see her child being cut in half and thus decided to let go.
“Like a mother who will always care for her children, the DPP has always stood on the side of farmers and has never stopped caring through our proposed subsidies for elderly farmers ... as we are all children of Taiwan,” she said.
“We do not want to see any farmers getting hurt” by the controversy, she said.
However, the issue of supply-and-demand imbalance and the fact that astringent persimmons were being sold at NT$2 per jin (600g) were all true and the Ma administration should not evade its responsibility by turning the issue into a campaign tool by blowing it out of proportion, she added.
Tsai pledged that if she is elected next month, the government would not shy away from its responsibility of taking care of farmers.
She urged the Ma government to deal with the issue of the wellbeing of farmers from a long-term perspective, instead of handling it as a campaign issue.
Tsai, who on Wednesday said the picture mix-up was “regrettable,” decided yesterday morning to call the press conference and formally apologize, DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said, adding that the press conference was an attempt to send out a clear message of what the DPP was trying to express, rather than “damage control.”
At a separate setting, Ma’s re-election campaign office spokesman Yin Wei (殷瑋) said the camp recognized Tsai’s willingness to offer an apology over the incident, but added that she and the DPP should apologize to farmers for their negative campaign.
“A belated apology is better than no apology at all. However, Tsai only apologized for putting incorrect -information in the campaign flyer. She should apologize to innocent farmers, who are the real victims of the negative campaign,” he said.