Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) has once again found himself in hot water and this time it is of his own making.
In an interview with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-friendly UFO Network on Tuesday, Wu said that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) cross-strait policy continued to abide by the principle of “no reunification, no independence and no war.”
“You don’t have the capability to unify [China] and you don’t want to be unified by it, nor are you capable of declaring independence, which would cause a split domestically, not to mention the possibility of danger from an external force,” he said, using his rhetorical skills to blur the lines and in the end not not say very much.
Then came the kicker: “Only irresponsible people or idiots would want to seek independence [for Taiwan].”
Soon afterwards, several pan-blue lawmakers pointed to the inappropriateness of Wu’s remarks, while pan-green lawmakers demanded that Wu step down. Others also asked if, from his comments, it followed that those who seek unification with China are “responsible and smart.”
A seasoned politician who has served several legislative terms, Wu has earned a reputation as a good talker. In a democracy like Taiwan, where freedom of speech is respected, everybody — officials included — is entitled to his opinion.
This, however, does not mean that Wu, the nation’s top administrative official, should feel free to speak carelessly and use offensive language to characterize people who don’t agree with him.
The main task of the premier is to draw up administrative policies that will benefit Taiwanese, regardless of gender, age, religious belief or political leaning.
Wu’s indiscretion comes at a time when the KMT’s image is suffering, but this insult affected more than just a few people.
A poll released by Global Views magazine in October showed that 29.3 percent of people in Taiwan would support immediate and/or eventual independence, an increase of 3.9 percent from a similar poll conducted in May. Those who supported immediate or eventual unification with China remained fixed at 8.3 percent. In other words, if we look at the world through Wu’s eyes, about 30 percent of Taiwanese are idiots, while the more than 50 percent who support the “status quo” could be regarded as mildly retarded.
Ma has himself stated on several occasions that “Taiwan’s future must be decided by Taiwan’s 23 million people.” Furthermore, following the KMT’s less-than-stellar showing in the local elections on Saturday, Ma, who doubles as party chairman, said that all party members should show humility and think about what went wrong. Surely, insulting a large swath of the electorate was not part of his plan.
Dogged by reporters and unyielding at first, Wu eventually admitted that his comments were inappropriate and that he wished he had never made the reference to “idiots.” He then apologized.
Apology accepted, but this man of many words might profit more from being silent when he feels like saying the first thing that crosses his mind. Lots of voters, and the KMT, would be thankful.
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