Sun, Sep 15, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Public split on politicians' affairs

MORAL STANDARD Allegations of extramarital affairs have the potential to sink political careers, but in many cases public figures can weather such scandals

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

The large number of media reports on public figures' infidelities has the public questioning the impact of sex scandals on politicians' careers.

According to a survey by the TVBS poll center on Aug. 12, 61 percent of people believe that a politician's personal life should be a model for the public, and only 28 percent think that it is no one else's business.

However, people were divided on whether it is more important for a politician to manage his marriage well or do his job well.

Forty-five percent percent of those surveyed thought that it doesn't matter whether a politician has a happy marriage, saying it is more important that he performs his job well. Still, 44 percent disagreed with that statement.

The results help explain why involvement in an extra-marital affair has become a moral stigma leaving politicians open to attacks from rivals and why allegations of sex scandals crop up during election campaigns.

Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), editor in chief of Contemporary Monthly, has attributed the phenomenon to the profound influence of traditional Confucianism, which sets a high moral standard for politicians, on Chinese people.

"No matter how much liberal thought has been introduced to this modern society, some deep-rooted traditional values continue to exist. It is this latent cultural factor that makes negative publicity related to sex so forceful in election campaigns," Chin once said at a discussion on the topic held by the Taiwan Media Watch Foundation (台灣媒體觀察基金會).

This has been proven in the case of many politicians, the most recent being Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文). When Yao was sworn in as president of the Examination Yuan, attention was focussed on his alleged affairs.

One woman threatened to disclose evidence of Yao's infidelity, which she claimed was sufficient to "unseat another DPP chairman and threaten Yao's Examination Yuan presidency."

In Yao's case, the allegations did not appear to sidetrack his campaign, however, because no evidence or witness came out.

Still, in an attempt to put the charges behind him, Yao and his wife, DPP Legislator Chou Ching-yu (周清玉), publicly portrayed themselves as a loving couple.

During appearances at the legislature, Yao would hold Chou's hand and he once told his wife "I love you" during a legislative session to review his nomination.

While such allegations appear potentially damaging, involvement in a sex scandal does not necessarily lead to political defeat.

This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that many legislators were elected, though they are known to be unfaithful to their wives. In particular, their infidelity seems tolerable to their constituents as long as they keep their families intact and their wives express no objection.

For example, DPP Legislator Cheng Yu-chen (鄭余鎮), who made headlines last month for eloping to the US with his aide Sophie Wang (王筱嬋), has faced numerous allegations of affairs during his 30 years of marriage to Lu Pei-yin (呂珮茵) and even has an illegitimate daughter.

Well aware of the situation, Cheng's constituents in Hsinchuang, Taipei County, still threw their support behind him until he announced his decision to divorce his wife to marry Wang. Former supporters said Cheng "has been dismissed" for the "ungrateful" manner with which he treated Lu.

An older case involves former premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), who finally divorced his wife Hsu Jui-ying (徐瑞英) to marry his long-time mistress Chu Ah-ying (朱阿英) early this year. While his affair with Chu failed to impact his 17-year career as a legislator, the decision to get a divorce resulted in his being labeled a "heartless husband."

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