Complaints from netizens and a series of controversies have enveloped Brazilian-Taiwanese Iruan Ergui Wu’s (吳憶樺) visit to Taiwan in negative publicity as the teenager visited the Catholic Church diocese in Chiayi City yesterday.
Iruan toured around Chiayi City yesterday and was invited to a luncheon with Bishop Thomas Chung An-zu (鍾安住), who heads the Catholic diocese in Chiayi County.
On Tuesday, the 18-year-old accompanied his adoptive Brazilian mother, Etna Borkert, and adoptive brother, Cassio Borkert, on a visit to Sun Moon Lake and Catholic missions in Nantou County’s Puli Township (埔里), before heading to Greater Taichung.
Iruan said that although Taiwanese are very nice and friendly, “I will go back to Brazil to finish my education… If the church needs me here, I can apply to do service work and return to Taiwan in the future,” as he replied to reporters’ questions in Portuguese, which were then translated, at Sun Moon Lake.
It is the first time the 18-year-old has visited Taiwan since the Taiwan High Court granted custody to his Brazilian grandmother in 2004.
Iruan is the son of a Taiwanese fishing boat captain and a Brazilian woman, Marisa Ergui Tavares, who died shortly after his birth.
Iruan’s father, Wu Teng-shu (吳登樹), died of a heart attack in 2001 shortly after he brought the young boy to Taiwan to visit his family.
The itinerary for the current trip was arranged by the main sponsor, the Taiwan Catholic Mission Foundation (天主教博愛基金會), which raised NT$1.5 million (US$49,830) in donations to make the visit possible.
Much of the criticism was leveled at the budget of the so-called “Return to Taiwan Homeland Trip.”
Foundation executive director Austin Ou (歐晉仁) said that the money was needed for airfares, along with meals, travel and accommodation during the 17-day tour.
Ou also said the foundation had applied and received a NT$200,000 grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The trip is focused on goodwill and charitable causes. We are also promoting Taiwan-Brazil relations through citizen diplomacy,” he said.
Some netizens have said the budget is too high, and the money should be used for other, more needy families.
“The whole thing is shameless self-promotion for Mr Ou and his Catholic foundation. They are milking money and publicity for themselves,” one netizen said.
Another complaint was that only four out of the 17 days spent in Taiwan were scheduled for Iruan to stay with his relatives in Cieding District (茄萣) of Greater Kaohsiung.
Netizens have said that the family gathering should have been the focus of Iruan’s visit, but that Ou and his foundation have turned it into a “flamboyant media circus show,” by making stops at major tourist sites and going to every major city.
Iruan’s every move has been followed by reporters and TV cameras, and he was caught on video kissing a woman in a restaurant in Taipei on his second day in Taiwan on Saturday.
The woman in the video, filmed by a restaurant patron, was found to be a 31-year-old reporter for CtiTV surnamed Cheng (鄭), who was on assignment in Brazil to interview Iruan last month, and flew back to Taiwan with his family on the same flight on Friday last week.
Iruan’s relatives were upset by the incident, and they accused the reporter of trying to seduce a “naive teenager,” while diverting attention and spoiling the goodwill generated from the return visit of their “lost son,” with media and netizen discussions turning to speculation on the 18-year-old’s romantic dalliances.