Sun, Oct 16, 2011 - Page 3 News List

DPP is confident of Hakka vote

CRUCIAL CONSTITUENCY:Party officials say that they believe Tsai Ing-wen’s Hakka ancestry may help her win the vote in the vital Hsinchu, Miaoli and Taoyuan districts

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter, in Taoyuan County

Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen waves to supporters as she arrives for a presidential campaign stop in Hsinchu City yesterday.

Photo: Wang Chin-yi, Taipei Times

As Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) presidential election campaign trip took her to areas with heavy Hakka populations in northern Taiwan yesterday, the party said it feels that it has never had as good an opportunity as this year to make strides in securing Hakka votes in the election.

One of the main reasons for that confidence is that, unlike previous standard-bearers, Tsai is of Hakka descent.

Tsai said yesterday in Hsinchu, one of the three main Hakka constituencies in northern Taiwan, along with Miaoli and Taoyuan, that her party planned to promote the Hakka language and eventually designate it as one of the national languages if she were elected president in January.

Her 11-day campaign trip along the west coast was approaching Taipei, where the trip will draw to a close today.

“After a successful campaign in southern Taiwan, people said that I would receive a lukewarm welcome as the group traveled northward, but I haven’t felt that,” Tsai told supporters on a campaign stop at Jhongli (中壢), Taoyuan County.

Hakka are the second-largest ethnic group in Taiwan behind Hoklo. According to a Council of Hakka Affairs survey, 18.1 percent of the nation’s 23 million nationals, or 4.2 million people, are of Hakka descent.

In past elections, most Hakka in northern Taiwan favored the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). A recent DPP survey shows that it trails by about 10 percent among Hakka voters in that region.

While Hakka communities in southern Taiwan’s Pingtung and Kaohsiung gave Tsai and her running mate Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) a warm welcome last week because the pair hail from Pingtung, the DPP understood that winning Hakka votes in the north would be a tall order.

Tsai said that the DPP has long been seen as a party dominated by Hoklo people, which was why it has not been successful in Hakka constituencies in the past.

However, that was probably a wrong perception, because Hoklo people and the DPP neither ignore nor discriminate against the Hakka, Tsai said.

Speaking in Hsinchu yesterday, Tsai said the Council of Hakka Affairs and the Hakka TV Service were both founded between 2000 and 2008, when the DPP was in power. The DPP administration also helped several universities establish Colleges of Hakka Studies, she added.

Being a Hakka, Tsai said she would like to do more to promote the Hakka language and culture as well as improving infrastructure in Hakka constituencies.

Earlier in Miaoli, she talked about reviving local economies by developing industries with local characteristics, such as wood carving. In Hsinchu, she pledged to make the region, which is already known as Taiwan’s Silicon Valley, the technology capitol of Taiwan by expanding the size and diversity of the Hsinchu Science Park.

Although Tsai does not speak fluent Hakka, Hakka people seemed to see her as one of their own, DPP legislative candidate Yang Yiong Cong-ziin (楊長鎮) said.

“It appeared that Hakka women — young and old — felt that they could identify with Tsai and they believe in her, and maybe that could make a difference in the election,” said a Tsai campaign adviser, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

The DPP see the Hakka constituencies as important battlegrounds, with former Hsinchu County commissioner Lin Kwang-hua (林光華), a Hakka, saying that Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli could be the deciding electoral region of January’s presidential election, despite widespread belief that central Taiwan would be the game-changer.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top