A Hong Kong woman with strong ties to Taiwan and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) submitted a winning bid of US$50,000 in an auction for a porcelain flute played by DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) at a fundraiser for Taiwanese-Americans that launched Hsieh's four-day visit to the US capital on Sunday.
Alice Liu made the bid at a gala dinner attended by some 1,000 people from around the country at which Hsieh played a World War II song on the flute. The song depicted the hope of Taiwanese soldiers sent by Japan to fight US troops to return home.
Liu described herself as a businesswoman with a land development business in Taiwan. She said she is married to a Taiwanese from Kaohsiung and that she was formerly an officer at the American Institute in Taiwan's branch in Kaohsiung.
It was not clear how the money from the auction and the dinner would be used. Some sources said the cash would fund a campaign to convince Taiwanese-Americans to vote for the DPP in next year's presidential election, or even subsidize the cost of voters traveling to Taiwan to vote.
Seats at the dinner began at US$60, with seats at Hsieh's table going for US$100. Liu was seated at Hsieh's table.
Liu's US$50,000 contribution eclipsed the money the dinner's organizers expected to raise.
Why did she pay so much for the flute?
"I have wealth in Taiwan and I really want to work for Taiwan," Liu told the Taipei Times.
And did she expect Hsieh to win the presidency next year?
"Of course," she said.
Bids on the flute started at US$1,000 and rose in increments of US$500 in initially slow bidding. But as the auction continued, the increments grew, first to US$1,000 and then as much as US$5,000.
The bidding seemed to have wrapped up at US$45,000 when Liu raised her hand at the auctioneer's urging to trump that bid by another US$5,000.
And then it was over, except for a crowded photo session on the stage as Hsieh and the diminutive Liu raised the emerald-colored flute for photographers recording the event.