Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Elections 2006: Ko Tzu-hai stands apart in race to be mayor of Taipei

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Dirtied by dust and exhaust fumes from campaigning all day on street curbs, independent Ko Tzu-hai (柯賜海) is nevertheless the "cleanest" candidate in the 2006 Taipei mayoral election.

That's because the 50-year-old real estate investor is not a mudslinger.

"My face may be black, but my heart isn't," Ko said, referring to his tanned face.

Gripping a shiny scythe, the gaunt, six-foot businessman could pass for the Grim Reaper.

Instead of doling out death, however, Ko peddles hope, waving to motorists and ticking off his goals as Taipei mayor for anybody who cares to listen.

"The scythe symbolizes my crusade against corruption," he said.

Although he is the least known of the six candidates running for Taipei mayor, Ko is no stranger to the camera.

He first gained notoriety in 2004 when Taipei police confiscated his beloved heifer. Ko raised the cow in his Taipei home, a small, one-story house in Tianmu, he said.

With his bovine sidekick in tow, Ko became a fixture at protests against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) following the controversial 2004 presidential election.

Naming the cow "A-bian" (Chen's nickname), Ko used the animal to symbolize the president's alleged dishonesty, as the Chinese words for "yellow cow" mean "hypocrite" or "liar."

LESS IMPRESSED

While the media took kindly to the image of Ko and his satirical cow, the police were far less impressed.

Citing laws that prohibit unchecked movement and defecation by heifers in downtown Taipei, the police eventually impounded Ko's beast of burden.

Not to be demoralized, Ko showed up at random media events with posters that read, "Mayor Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九], give me back my cow!"

"I really loved that cow," Ko told the Taipei Times.

"She's being held now at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology. When I visited her last year, she shed a tear," he said.

Ko also boasts an ambitious campaign platform.

"You see all these taxis?" Ko said. "Most of them are empty. What I would do is cut taxi fares by 70 percent, and subsidize taxi drivers to make up any losses.

Meanwhile, public transportation would be totally free, and private vehicles would be banned from the city, except on the weekends."

He added that such measures would drastically reduce pollution, and were feasible if taxes were managed more effectively.

Ko, a graduate of National Taiwan University's law school, also vowed to crack down on gangs and corruption, and reform the justice system.

Despite his rivals' penchant for flippant remarks and mudslinging, Ko refused to pass judgment.

If anything, Ko had nothing but kind words for his fellow candidates.

"[Democratic Progressive Party candidate] Frank Hsieh [謝長廷] said he'd return my cow if he became Taipei mayor. That was nice of him," Ko said.

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