President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) handshake jokingly dubbed by netizens as a “death-grip” handshake inspired a high-school student to create a fantasy short story that won him third place in a national student writing competition.
Netizens, known for their sarcastic commentary focused on politicians, have described shaking hands with Ma as bringing bad luck, citing a number of famous athletes who lost crucial games following a handshake with the president.
In the fiction piece authored by Chung Chih-hsuan (鍾智軒), a second-year student at Yunlin County Huwei Senior High School, Ma is portrayed as someone whose soul is possessed by Death after suffering several car and near-drowning accidents as a child.
The possession allows Ma’s right hand to take on Death’s power to bring misfortune to whoever shakes it.
The magical power of Ma’s handshakes then draws the attention of a religious cult, the New Religion of Taiwan (台灣新教), which kidnaps Ma and brainwashes him into helping it dominate the world.
The plot of Chung’s fiction piece, includes the story of how Ma became the president and a description of him traveling to the Vatican where an attempt to take down the pope with a handshake fails, with the religious leader managing to withstand Ma’s “kiss of death.”
Chung’s work stood out among the more than 100 entries in the fifth National Student Fantasy Writing Competition held at Chang Hua Senior High School.
The competition is the only student-writing contest in the nation that centers on the fantasy genre. It requires contestants to pick a real-life Taiwanese figure as the lead character of their works.
The award presentation ceremony for the contest is to be held on Thursday next week.
Chung said while reading science fiction had been his childhood passion, he found much more joy in writing.
“I learned about the competition on the Internet. The reason I chose Ma as my story’s main character was because both my friend and I found the president’s handshake curse to be intriguing,” he said.
Asked if he was worried about the “possible repercussions” of writing about a politically sensitive figure, Chung said: “Not at all. We are living in an open society and I doubt the school will put me on special watch just because of my story.”
Chung added that his story was meant to amuse readers and not to belittle the president.
Taiwanese author Chen Su-hsien (陳思嫻), who served as one of the judges for the contest, said Chung’s creativity and writing skills were commendable and that the judges took into account nothing other than the quality of the submitted works.
Other judges said that students’ freedom of writing should be respected and that nothing should prevent Chung from being awarded for his fine work.
The Presidential Office has declined to comment on the matter.
Additional Reporting by Peng Hsien-chun