Chinese-lanuage media recently reported that Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) four-story house in Hsinchu County has an illegal rooftop construction. During the interview, Ko’s mother, Ho Jui-ying (何瑞英), wailed into the microphone that “knives are out for me because my son is running for president,” and shed many tears in front of the camera.
Ko is far from the only one whose candidacy has elicited media interest. All former candidates running for president have been subjected to close scrutiny, regardless of their political affiliation. Ho would be mistaken if she thought she could make the media attention go away or garner sympathy with a few tears.
Former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and his wife, Lee Chia-fen (李佳芬), faced legal trouble when he ran for president in 2019. After the Yunlin County Government said that the buildings they owned were built illegally on farmland, Lee was obligated to dismantle the building, along with a basketball hoop.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who was in three presidential campaigns, also faced property controversy. The burial site of her father, Tsai Chie-sheng (蔡潔生), in New Taipei City’s Sindian District (新店) was found by investigators to cover an estimated 3,298m3, which is 412 times larger than regulation limits.
In the interview, Ho said that only she and her husband live in the house, but as the four-story house has a balcony on every floor, it is unlikely that the 85-year-old Ho would require a “fifth floor” to dry clothes. Even if the pair needs plenty of space to dry clothes, an extra rooftop construction is hardly necessary for daily laundry, unless they are planning to run a laundromat.
The family members of the presidential candidates for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Vice President William Lai (賴清德), and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), have so far not made appearances in the media during this campaign. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou’s (郭台銘) family might have been in the media, but they have refrained from commenting on politics.
Ko’s family has never shied away from the camera, especially Ho. Aside from letting tears flow, she also accused DPP Legislator Lai Pin-yu (賴品妤) of having said “all of you [DPP members] got money from my father, have you not?”
However, Ho’s accusation was misdirected because that statement was made by Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), daughter of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), when she was furious that DPP members did not help her father when he was embroiled in corruption scandals.
Four years ago, Ko’s parents went to the Central Election Commission office in Taipei to help Ko register as a presidential candidate. Ko showed up later, not to complete the registration, but to take his parents home.
Before the Taichung second electoral district by-election in January last year, Ko’s parents happened to “run into” former lawmaker Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恆). With so many “coincidences,” it is unsurprising why some people are accusing Ho of “meddling in politics” on behalf of Ko.
Media commentators have rebuked Ko for being irresponsible by letting his mother face the illegal construction controversy alone. Ko said it “slipped his mind” that his house had a fifth floor, which was laughable.
If the 64-year-old Ko wishes to become president, he will have to work for it himself, not rely on his mother to do his job for him. After all, Ho could make mistakes and say the wrong thing. Ko would not want his mother to become the key to his success but also his undoing, would he?
Sophia Lee is a member of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.
Translated by Rita Wang
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