Amid recent battles between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over the Hakka identities of their respective presidential candidates — President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — Ma’s re-election campaign office yesterday defended his efforts to learn the Hakka and Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) languages as it unveiled its latest campaign commercial.
The commercial focused on Ma’s experience studying Hakka and Hoklo over the past 10 years and featured interviews with his two language teachers.
In a press conference held to launch the commercial, both Ma’s Hakka language teacher, Peng Chin-ching (彭欽清), an English professor at National Chengchi University, and his Hoklo teacher, Fang Nan-chiang (方南強), lauded the president for his dedication and sincerity in learning the languages, regardless of the results of his studies.
When asked to comment on the Hakka identities of Ma and Tsai, Peng said he did not think blood ties should be a factor when addressing Hakka issues.
“The election is not my area of expertise, but I think President Ma has put a lot of effort into taking care of the Hakka community,” he said yesterday at Ma’s campaign headquarters.
Fang, who has taught Ma Hoklo for 12 years, said the president learned the language not only through textbooks, but also from folk songs and slang.
The issue of the candidates’ Hakka identity has been in the -spotlight amid Ma’s and Tsai’s attempts to attract the Hakka vote ahead of the Jan. 14 presidential election.
While Ma has stressed his connections with the Hakka people by saying that his surname originated in Hunan Province, Tsai has promoted her identity as a Hakka from Pingtung County.
The battle for the Hakka vote intensified last weekend when former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) said Tsai was a -“pseudo-Hakka” because she was unable to speak the Hakka language fluently.
His remarks drew immediate criticism from the DPP, which said past KMT policy promoted only Mandarin.
Peng said he started giving Ma Hakka lessons in 2001 when Ma was serving as Taipei mayor, adding that Ma was a diligent student who would tape the lessons to practice his pronunciation.
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