Not surprisingly, Su Tseng-chang got elected the party leader as he has got support from some county chiefs and 2 mayors as well as those who control a substantial number of nominal party members. When asked how he would deal with the problem of nominal party members, his reply was that nominal members should not be stigmatised.
Lo Chih-cheng beat Chang Hung-lu and will become Director of DPP’s New Taipei City regional office. Lo did not have Chang’s local connections but he has a high profile (good ability and public image) and Tsai Ing-wen’s support. I don’t know how much the scandal this week hurt Chang but judging by the significant majority Lo won (5000+ votes more than his opponent), Lo would have easily won either way. This is the first time in many years that this regional office is not headed by Su Tseng-chang’s associate. The level of support for Lo could mean that Su’s influence in New Taipei is not as great as some people believe and that the Tsai’s campaigns have got her some real support. This may be a positive change for the DPP because in all the major elections over the past 10 years, the results in this region have almost always been disappointing. This has raised a question about Su and his people’s campaign ability (or willingness to campaign for others). Indeed, despite being active in the region for many years, Chang Hung-lu has not shown any outstanding or memorable performance in his political career. Let’s see if Lo can do better in New Taipei.
In Taipei City, Chuang Ruei-hsiun, a good Taipei City Councillor, secured another term as Director of the DPP Taipei City Regional Office. He has been backed by Frank Hsieh and endorsed by Tsai Ing-wen. It’s worth mentioning that when he won last time, he took over the position from Huang (who also ran this time), who is wealthy enough to control a lot of nominal party members. Chuang’s win probably signified the influence of those who use nominal party members to dominate diminishing in that region. Lo’s win in New Taipei could mean the same there because a lot of those who control nominal members were said to have supported Chang.
As I said before, I’m not optimistic about DPP’s future in Su’s hands. However, with the changes in the 2 most important regional offices, Su may not be as dominating as expected. Lo and Chuang are both young and promising and I hope they both do well at creating positive changes in the future.
In an article, Taipei Times reported the following:
Chai, Wu and Su Huan-chih yesterday afternoon demanded that the DPP call a Central Executive Committee meeting today to investigate alleged election fraud in New Taipei City (新北市).
The DPP national headquarters turned down the request for the meeting, but promised to launch an investigation.
Demands for the investigation focus around Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) — currently running for director of the DPP’s regional office in New Taipei City — who on Thursday accused his rival, Chang Hung-lu (張宏陸), of handing out lists of party members to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials in the city and asking KMT borough chiefs to campaign for Su Tseng-chang and Chang.
Acting DPP chairperson Chen Chu (陳菊) urged party members to vote tomorrow, with spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) adding that the leadership handover ceremony is scheduled to be held on Wednesday.
There are crucial details missing in this article. TWIMI has the most comprehensive coverage:
According to Lo Chih-cheng, on 22nd and 23rd May, all the borough chiefs in the Yong-he area received a letter through their local network, asking them to support Su Tseng-chang in the leadership race and Chang Hung-lu (supported by Su) for the directorship in the DPP New Taipei City regional office. The letter was signed by the deputy speaker of the New Taipei City Council, KMT’s Chen Hung-yuan (陳鴻源) and a KMT borough chief, Hsu Cheng-yang (許承煬). A separate sheet with DPP members’ names and addresses in the area was enclosed so that theborough chiefs could contact them.
Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) pointed out that all the candidates had signed a legal statement and sworn to keep all the member details they received completely confidential (as in only used by the candidate for the election and not shared with any external party or agency) and therefore, Su and Chang needed to explain. Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) said that this was not only a disciplinary matter but a criminal offence. He added that if member details could be leaked to the KMT, they could also be leaked to the Chinese.
Hsu Cheng-yang admitted sending that letter out to get support for Chang. He said that he was only helping out of his personal friendship with Chang (which he rephrased after Chang denied knowing him as friendly feelings towards Chang for his good work when Chang was in the County government) and that he got those individual member details from his uncle, Hsu Yu-ming, who ran for the parliament for the DPP in the past.
DPP deputy Secretary-General, Hung Yao-fu (洪耀福) confirmed that the member details all matched the party’s record and those individuals were all the members eligible to vote in the current election (i.e. that information is the most up to date). The primary for the parliamentary election Hsu Yu-ming was in (2011) was all based on telephone poll and member details were not released to any candidate for campaign during that election. Therefore, it was impossible for Hsu Yu-ming to leak information to his nephew when he did not have that information in the first place. Hung also explained that member details were held in a secure system with no external access and to get the details, one would need login, password and authorisation. The level of detail one can see depends on the level of clearance they have.
The deputy speaker of New Taipei City Council Chen Hung-yuan’s response was interesting. His office said that Hsu’s staff included his name by mistake and that they had already asked for that version to be destroyed and therefore, they were puzzled as to how those copies got out. They emphasised that it was impossible for a deputy speaker to interfere in DPP’s internal electiona.
Well, I don’t know how or why a KMT borough chief would specifically include the deputy speaker (out of all the councillors) in that letter but a Taiwanese blogger, Black Rain, pointed out that this was not the first time we have heard about the KMT helping Su Tseng-chang in an election. Black Rain detailed the relevant media reports. In April 2011, Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) reported that the KMT was using some of their local networks to support Su in the DPP presidential primary and Next Magazine specified that this happened in New Taipei City. This kind of allegations should be quite damaging to Su but to date, he has not confronted those two media outlets or sued them. The blogger pointed out that Su has always been observed to have great relationships with politicians in the blue camp. I won’t list all the indicators or evidence here but off the top of my head – A KMT central standing committee member and a New Taipei City Councillor could not have sung more praise about Su and openly said that he would have campaigned and vote for Su had Su run for the president.
Chang denied handing those details to the KMT borough chief. Both Su and Chang said that they did not know who gave those details to the KMT, implying that it could be anyone who had access. Chang even implied that it could be Lo who set him up. I agree with Black Rain that this is not very likely because Lo is new in New Taipei City and has limited local connections whereas Chang has been there for years. Would a KMT chief or deputy speaker help someone they don’t know well set his opponent up?
Black Rain also noted the silence in the media about the leak of DPP member details to the KMT and KMT’s alleged support for Su and Chang. He detailed what he saw in each outlet and posed some questions such as why blue friendly media did not leap at a perfect chance to tear the DPP or an influential DPP figure apart like they usually do? Why would they let this go? If Hsu was colluding with Lo, their intention would be to damage Su and Chang. Then, why would the blue friendly media let Su off?
This incident makes one wonder what else has been leaked to the KMT? Campaign strategies? Committee decisions? After losing the presidential election, one of the reasons Tsai attributed to her loss was that their organisations had been ‘broken’. She was very vague but could she have meant ‘penetrated’? If there was any truth in any of the above, who will be running the DPP in the future should Su be elected? More importantly, there are individual(s) in the DPP, whoever they are, that have mishandled their members’ personal details and violated their trust. If this is not looked into and dealt with, it may affect people’s willingness to join the party in the future.
By the way, I’d never heard of Hsu’s name until this week but Chen was a household name already because Sean Lien (連勝文) was shot in the face when campaigning for Chen during the 2010 Municipality elections. Chen stood only a few yards away from Lien when it happened. This incident affected the election results to certain extent as some voters switched their support to the KMT. In the end, the DPP won only Kaohsiung and Tainan when they could have won at least one more city. At the time, Tsai Ing-wen was running for the New Taipei Mayor’s office. A win would have given Tsai the key to get into or even take over Su’s base and networks, which might not be difficult because she gained considerable support during the campaign and lost by a margin closer than expected.
This is probably the biggest news of the year. It came as a shock for some and many loyal supporters are saddened and angered by this news. Personally, I am impressed by how Cheng Hung-yi (鄭弘儀) had managed to withstand all the pressure for this long. I do not believe that Cheng resigned purely for personal reasons.
Talking Show (大話新聞) has consistently been the No. 1 political talk show. This is partly because pro-Taiwan and green friendly shows are in the minority in the media and the collective support from pro-Taiwan viewers who see the show as the only outlet of their voices makes it really stand out. It also owes thanks to Cheng and his team’s superior ability in gathering and effectively using materials and evidence to support their arguments and critiques. For these reasons, Cheng and the regular guests have been ‘marked’ by the KMT. When the attempt to buy them off failed, the KMT government has brought suits against them probably to intimidate and harass.
Internally, Cheng seemed to have been marked by one of the ‘higher ups’ as a thorn in the side and this person has tried very hard to push him out. He has often been asked to tone down criticisms on the KMT government. The company will lose a lot of loyal pro-Taiwan and pro-democracy viewers but they probably believe that the profits from the Chinese market will more than compensate the loss in Taiwan. We shall see if Cheng’s departure triggers a domino effect of pro-Taiwan voices being eliminated gradually. I hope not. With that level of popularity, Cheng can easily do another show which matches or surpasses the success of Talking Show but I am not sure which TV company would be going against the political tides at this time. Some people have suggested FTV but it seems to be another empire of its own and may not be as pro-Taiwan as some might think.
On 7th March, Taiwan’s former president Chen Shui-bian, currently imprisoned, was taken to Taoyuan General Hospital for a medical check up and was found to have a heart condition. He underwent a procedure the following day to correct the problem. He was also found to have a prostate tumour but the doctors had yet to determine whether it was malignant.
It reads as if Chen was simply taken to the hospital. However, getting the authority to grant the permission had not been easy. Chen had been feeling unwell for a while but prison doctors had not reported the need for more sophisticated examinations in a hospital. Chen fell ill again on 2nd March. His wife visited him in prison and asked the Ministry of Justice to allow Chen to be properly examined in a hospital. The minister emphasised that Chen had been seen by prison doctors (seconded from Taoyuan General Hospital) three times before and that everything was normal but he would ask the prison to assess there was a need for a hospital visit.
On the following day, Frank Hsieh posted a message on Plurk:
According to news reports, A-bian had expressed his suspicion of having colon cancer. From the legal or the humane point of view, the authority must grant him a visit to the hospital for a thorough check up immediately and must not let any political consideration get in the way. If [Chen’s] life is endangered because of the delay, it is the same as murder and will certainly polarise the society further.
On 6th March, 12 DPP and 1 TSU legislators visited the Ministry of Justice and asked the Ministry to grant permission and make arrangements for Chen to have a check up immediately.
This makes me wonder:
Does it need 4 days or longer to make such a decision?
Does it take as much effort or as long for other prisoners?
If the answer was ‘no’ for the above two questions, why did it take 4 days and so much pressure for the ministry to act?
If the answer was ‘yes’ for the first two questions, what are prisoners’ human rights like in Taiwan at the moment?
After Chen was in hospital, it was found that he had been given Ativan (Lorazepam) for 14 months non-stop. Chen said that he had not been aware of the use and side effects of this drug but the hospital spokesperson, Dr. Wang, claimed that the doctor prescribed 1/8 of the normal dose so that the chance of having side effects was very low. Wang also emphasised that the doctor had inform Chen its effects. This discrepancy may be because the doctor did not explain clearly enough to Chen or given him the full information and did not make sure Chen understood. However, according to the UK NHS website,
Lorazepam is a medicine which is used to treat anxiety, excitement, mania and status epilepticus. Lorazepam is also used as a pre-operative medication. Lorazepam is used in these conditions due to its anxiolytic, sedative, anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant effects.
Lorazepam should only be used at the lowest possible dose for the shortest time possible. This will minimise the chance of dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
It makes one wonder why it’s necessary to give someone such a drug for 14 months. I also wonder how many people would willingly take this medication without cause for 14 months after reading the two sentences in bold, however low the dosage is.
Upon reading Chen’s medical record, his office question the safety (or quality) of the medical care Chen had received. For example, Chen was once given a medication for his heart symptom but the prescribed dose was at least three times higher than the normal one, which caused Chen extreme discomfort and a severe headache. I don’t know whether this could be life threatening or not. It was found to be prescribed by a physiotherapist rather than a qualified medical doctor. On another occasion, Chen was given eye drops containing steroids, which made his high eye pressure even higher. Do the above reflect simply poor standard of medical care for all prisoners? Or is there something personal?
Chen’s son said that Chen was confined in a very small space (approx. 4 sq meters, including a toilet, a washing area and storage space) for the majority of the day and allowed outdoors 30 minutes only. A TSU legislator added on the Talking Show that there was no bed and Chen had to sleep on concrete floor like everyone else and the space was so small that Chen could not stretch/straighten his legs while he slept. As most people can tell, Chen is not tall and if he can’t stretch his legs, that must be awfully small.
As soon as Chen got to the hospital, the blue camp accused the ministry of giving Chen preferentially treatment1. A KMT legislator, Liao, asked the authority to treat Chen just like any other prisoner. Another KMT legislator, Wu Yu-sheng, told Chen’s family not to have the cake and eat it. However, some green supporters point out that when the former head of KMT secret service was jailed because he ordered the murder/assassination of the writer Liu Yi-liang, he was given a flat with space at the front, just like a home, and he was allowed to take a walk in that space whenever he liked. The two assassins also received special treatment in prison.
It’s not relevant to Chen’s health but I’d mention another irony here. In 2009, Wu Yu-sheng was caught having an affair, cheating on his wife, and the BMW-X5 he used to take the woman was leased by him and paid for by unspent political donations. I don’t want to comment on his affair but thought it might be important to know if the fund has covered his other personal luxury or been used inappropriately in any other way. However, as far as I remember, no mainstream (or blue friendly) media showed much interest in probing his handling of political donations further and Wu got re-elected in the 2012 legislative election.
It’s good if the DPP’s internal post-election review can be evidence based rather than just another competition of ‘who shouts the loudest’. One area that hasn’t been widely discussed or acknowledged is the conduct and decision making of the campaign team. However, in the draft review, the DPP acknowledged ‘the KMT had run a more “technically successful” campaign in terms of crisis management and campaign tactics, as well as communications’, as reported in Taipei Times.
Who ran Tsai’s campaign?
Tsai’s chief campaign manager was Wu Nai-jen. The chair of the campaign committee was Su Tseng-chang, who was supposed to incorporate local party offices into campaign and election workforce. Frank Hsieh was given the responsibility of mobilising supporters and organising those local groups around the country. On 28th December 2011, Former DPP legislator, Tuan Yi-kang emphasised that Hsieh was not part of any key decision-making for the presidential campaign. The campaign strategies were dominated by Wu and Lin Hsi-yao (senior aide, former Taipei County deputy chief when Su was the chief). Well-resourced departments such as the PR were all controlled by the New Tide faction, which Wu, Lin and Tuan all belong to, and Su Tseng-chang’s associates. Hsieh’s associates seemed to be placed in organisation and networking – very exhausting and not very well-resourced positions. According to media reports, there were a number of key errors during the campaign:
It was revealed after the election that Wu ignored crucial polling data and warning signs during the campaign. For example, before the election, DPP’s internal polling result once showed that Tsai would lose by 6 to 8%. When presented to Wu, he used the results from an unsourced poll to argue that Tsai had a 1-2% lead. Those close to Wu argued that the DPP polling might be ‘contaminated’ because respondents did not seem to be forthcoming or truthful. Frank Hsieh himself commissioned/funded separate and independent polls during the election and approximately a month before the election, he found that Ma’s satisfaction rating had steadily risen from 40% to 43% and then 50%. Hsieh immediately passed the polling results onto Wu and asked the team to respond but no action was taken.
Poor crisis management
During the campaign, the PR department made a calendar for distribution, with different fruits and their unit prices printed. The purpose was to tell the public about the local produce and highlight how the farmers’ profits were squeezed by the poor agricultural policies. However, they got the photo of water persimmon wrong and put a photo of sweet persimmon instead. As sweet persimmon was more expensive than water persimmon, the KMT, troubled by Ma’s private meeting with a bookie, quickly took advantage of this mistake and the media attacked the DPP for hurting the sweet persimmon farmers.
According to a report, Frank Hsieh was of the opinion that the PR personnel should have acted swiftly, apologising for the editorial oversight and then the campaign could move on. However, the key players let it escalate to the point that it hurt their polling number. Lin defended the PR team and insisted that there was no impact on the support level. In the end, it was so bad that Tsai had to make a public apology herself.
There were other crises during campaign. Regardless of whether they really affected the support level, the speed and the ways of responses from the campaign team were all quite incompetent. Another example would be how they dealt with the media attacks on Su Jya-chuan’s house. No clear response or effective refute was made for a few days, which allowed this non-issue to escalate.
It has also been observed that the campaign lacked a strong and clear theme and I don’t remember them clearly highlighting any issue to define the campaign. The ‘piggy bank’ success happened by pure chance. Even though Tsai was taking on a sitting president, the campaign did not really question Ma’s performance, his acceptance of 92 consensus or refute some serious allegations about DPP’s stance.
Who are taking responsibilities?
Tsai said that she would take all the responsibilities. Indeed, all the key players in the campaign have escaped intense public scrutiny and criticisms. I am not saying that those criticisms should be let out in the open but it is ironic that former DPP legislator, Kuo Cheng-liang, TAPOD chairman, Yiu Ying-lung and the Liberty Times (all Su Tseng-chang’s supporters) publicly urged Tsai to look into her own part. Perhaps Tsai should do so but I wonder why they don’t publicly ask Su to look into his failure as the campaign committee chair and the responsibilities of other members in the campaign team. For example, the poor ballot counting practices could have been reduced by better supervision and inspection on the DPP’s part and one of Su’s responsibilities was about that. There were actually more witness accounts that I haven’t had time to translate. The DPP claimed that they had sent inspectors/supervisors to 98% of the ballot counting stations. Even if they did, those who went were not well trained. Hsieh might have spotted a problem there and was trying to get supporters to observe the counting but this could never be as effective as party coordinated effort.
Right after the election, a news article said that Frank Hsieh had been the only one that worked with Tsai while the other heavyweights (including Su Tseng-chang) were working for their own end. I guess the reason why Hsieh was not given greater responsibilities in the campaign (like actually running it) and working more closely with Tsai was to avoid upsetting Su. Quite a few party committee members are in Su’s camp and Tsai would not want to give the outside world the impression that the DPP was divided again.
Su Tseng-chang now seems very eager to take over from Tsai as the party leader. He himself has not announced anything but the press and his associates are showing support, attacking potential competitors and paving the way for him to come forward. I am not optimistic about the DPP’s future with him being the leader. Other issues aside for now, look at his major campaign record:
In the 2000 presidential election, Su coordinated the campaign effort in Taipei County where he was the chief. Chen Shui-bian got only 36.73% of votes whereas James Soong got 40.26%. However, in Kaohsiung City, where Frank Hsieh was in charge, Chen got 45.79% of votes, which was 16.1% more than what Soong won.
In the 2004 presidential election, Su coordinated in Taipei County again. Chen got only 46.94% when Lien Chan received 53.06% of votes. However, In Kaohsiung city, Chen won 55.65% of the total votes whereas Lien got only 44.35%.
One might argue that Kaohsuing was a ‘green’ city and therefore Chen would have naturally won. This would be incorrect because the pre-Hsieh Kaohsiung was an ironclad ‘blue’ area. In fact, when Hsieh first got elected as the mayor in 1998, there were only eight DPP councillors in the Kaohsiung City Council. Hsieh not only renovated the city but changed the political culture there.
In the 2010 Taipei City mayoral election, despite all the hypes about Su and the DPP on the rise, he got only 43% of the votes – only 1% more than what Hsieh managed in 2006 when the DPP was about to fall apart.
When Su was the party leader in 2005, people had high hopes in his performance. However, the DPP suffered a huge defeat in the 3-in-1 election the same year. The total number of DPP county chiefs went from 10 to 6 and the number of council seats also dropped. As he used to be the Taipei County chief (supposedly successful and well-connected there), people expected a good outcome there at least but it was just unimpressive – the DPP county chief candidate lost by 200,000 votes.
When Hsieh was the party leader from 2000 to 2002, he worked with the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) strategically rather than competed with them. Hsieh moved the DPP towards the middle and the TSU went for the ‘dark green’. The outcome was that it became the first time the DPP had more parliamentary seats (n=87) than other parties in history. If the TSU seats were also considered (n=13), the pan-green coalition reached its peak then.
Su Tseng-chang actually has not got much to show for in the campaign department. If one examines the statistics about all the campaigns Su has run or been heavily involved in, they’d realise that none of those campaigns was stunningly successful. In fact, most of them were unimpressive. Some people believe that he is a good campaigner probably because he’s a good public speaker but I think his campaign ability has just been over hyped by the media.
BootsnAll has an article – ‘15 of the Most Beautiful Subway Stops in the World’. Apparently, 2 of the top 5 (2nd and 4th) are in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. These are Formosa Boulevard Station and Central Park Station.
I have been in both stations and they looked impressive indeed. Thanks to former Kaohsiung mayor, Frank Hsieh, for his vision, courage and determination. When he decided to make the bids international, it seemed that domestic companies that traditionally got projects under the KMT regime were really unhappy. The media, the prosecutors’ office and the blue camp seemed to be working together to attack and smear Hsieh. Similar things happened around the construction of 2009 World Games main stadium. Years later, we realised that Hsieh has never been prosecuted for the MRT project because there’s no evidence of wrongdoing and his team have all been cleared. I suspect only those who have firsthand experience understand the hassle during legal investigations and proceedings, especially when the investigating body is biased in the first place. That’s definitely painful.
At the most difficult time, Hsieh quoted the artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “The pain passes but the beauty remains” (痛苦會過去, 美麗會留下). If you have the chance to visit Kaohsiung, do spend some time and look around. You wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t. I actually wish I had more time.