BRIAN CANAVE WRITES– Someone find Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je a public relations specialist pronto! The newly elected official is getting heat from Taiwanese and international media for tone-deaf comments made in the past week.
On January 29, Foreign Policy magazine published highlights of a January 20 interview with the former trauma surgeon-turned-mayor. In his first high profile interview by Western media, Ko Wen-je was asked his opinion on topics like Taiwanese democracy and mainland-Taiwan relations.
His gaffe came when he “praised colonization which he claimed produces superior cultures.” In regards to Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mainland China, Ko Wen-je said:”The longer the colonization, the more advanced a place is. It’s rather embarrassing. Singapore is better than Hong Kong; Hong Kong is better than Taiwan; Taiwan is better than the mainland.”
After receiving criticism from scholars and lawmakers, Ko Wen-je initially denied ever using the word “colonization” and that it was an incorrect translation of his comments. Foreign Policy responded defending the integrity of their magazine by releasing the recorded audio, verifying Ko Wen-je’s usage of the word ‘colonization.’ Since then, he has admitted he was wrong and indeed used the word ‘colonization.’
Shortly after this gaffe, Ko Wen-je spoke February 1 on the topic of cross-strait relations, saying Taiwan and China should close the gap in their understandings of universal values like democracy and freedom. He argued against China’s vision of one-country, two-systems, and suggested a two-countries, one-system approach to facilitate cross-strait relations. The Global Times, a unit of the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, bashed the mayor’s speech and called for a suspension of the cross-strait forum and boycott of the 2017 World University Games in Taipei.
The new mayor may need to start thinking before speaking his thoughts. Or there will be consequences.