The second televised debate between opposition hopefuls for the Taipei mayoral election yesterday focused on the aspirant who skipped the event and criticism against what they called the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) princelings’ poor governance of the capital in the past 16 years.
The debate, organized by the Taiwan Association of University Professors and televised by Formosa TV, gathered all four Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) contenders and independent Neil Peng (馮光遠), an award-winning screenplay writer, following a similar debate between DPP-only aspirants on March 9.
National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who has been hailed as the leading opposition contender, backed off from his earlier commitment to participate, saying that a debate between opposition camp contenders was unnecessary.
Several aspirants were unhappy with Ko’s absence, with former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) calling him a “runaway physician.”
Lawyer Wellington Koo (顧立雄) also lambasted Ko in his closing remarks, accusing the independent of “constantly revealing contempt and disrespect for the values of democracy, progressiveness and the Taiwanese identity.”
Ko has been embroiled in controversy after his recent comments that he would cast an abstention vote on same-sex marriage; that he, as a family member of victims of the 228 Massacre, encouraged everyone to forget about the past and move on; and that he saw himself as Chinese, culturally.
The DPP’s decision last week to work out a mechanism between Ko and the DPP hopefuls to choose a final candidate, which means that the party could not nominate its own candidate, could explain why the aspirants focused on attacking Ko.
The 135-minute debate adopted a format that allowed participants to pose questions to one another, in addition to taking questions from the organizers.
While participants discussed their platforms, which mostly concerned affordable housing and an effort to balance regional development and revive the west side, they also said that one of the key factors behind Taipei’s stalled development in the past 16 years was the KMT’s privileged stratum.
Both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) were KMT “princelings” and both served for two terms each as Taipei mayor, and now a third “princeling,” Sean Lien (連勝文), son of former vice president Lien Chan (連戰), is running for mayor, they said.
All the participants said it was time for Taipei residents to decide whether they wanted to see that trend continue after a decade-long “deification” of KMT politicians, such as Ma, with “beautiful resumes, looks and US degrees,” which was carried out by certain media outlets, had sacrificed people’s welfare.
Citing local media reports in August last year, Lu said the Lien family had invested in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen for long-term care centers with a total capacity of more than 3,000 senior citizens and the family would have to explain about its investment in China.
Meanwhile, Peng raised the issue of media interference in the Taipei mayoral election, which is to be held in November, saying that several media outlets have become Beijing’s mouthpieces and have disproportionate coverage on different contenders.
Pundits have also tried to manipulate public opinion, said Peng, known for his humor and political satire, without naming names.
He appeared to be referring to TV host Sisy Chen (陳文茜) and News 98 radio show host Clara Chou (周玉蔻) with his imitation of Chou’s voice and reference to the “Chi Mei nurse,” a nickname given to Chen after she claimed in 2004 that a nurse at Chi Mei Medical Center told her that the presidential election eve shooting of then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and then-vice president Lu had been faked.