Kaohsiung mayoral rivals cross swords in debate

By Ko Yu-hao, Sherry Hsiao and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writers

Tue, Nov 20, 2018 - Page 1

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidates last night traded barbs on everything from the economy, investment and tourism, to population and administrative competency in their only televised debate of the campaign.

The two-hour debate, broadcast by Sanlih E-Television, began at 8pm with the DPP’s Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and the KMT’s Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) delivering their opening statements. There were two rounds of questioning before the debate ended with final statements from each candidate.

Kaohsiung, which has been run by DPP members for 20 years, has become the site of one of the hottest mayoral races in the nation.

People should not abuse or trample Kaohsiung for the sake of an election, Chen said, adding that it did not have to be him who gets elected, as long as it was not Han.

“Elections are temporary, but Kaohsiung is forever,” Chen said.

“How [were KMT Chairman and former Kaohsiung mayor Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) remarks last week] different from Han calling Kaohsiung ‘old and poor,’” he said.

Wu on Sunday apologized for referring to Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu (陳菊), who was mayor of the city for almost 12 years, as “a fat sow.”

“This is the way the KMT has consistently treated Kaohsiung,” Chen said.

He promised to create a point of contact to attract businesses and investments, open a science park in Ciaotou District (橋頭), connect Kaohsiung and Tainan via a “technological corridor,” and bring in more than NT$600 billion (US$19.4 billion) in economic output.

“Kaohsiung needs to move forward, but not by drilling for oil near Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) or building a Ferris wheel motel near Love River (愛河),” Chen said, adding: “If [Han] were willing to take back these unrealistic policies, [he] would earn my respect.”

Han said that his remarks about Kaohsiung being “old and poor” had been proven by Chen’s earlier admission that “the city is confronting issues of an economy in transition, a graying population and fiscal imbalances.”

“Shutting people down for saying things that are true is the reason those problems are not solved,” Han said.

Kaohsiung’s municipal debt of NT$250 billion to NT$300 billion is the highest in the nation, while it also ranks lowest for population growth, employment opportunities and youth unemployment, while its share of people with middling to low income and violent crime is outsized, he said.

“Those are the realities of Kaohsiung that we should confront bravely,” Han said.