Tzuyu case contributes marginally to Tsai's win: scholar

An incident involving a Taiwanese entertainer who was slammed for displaying a Republic of China flag helped drum up votes for Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in Saturday's president election, a scholar has said.

Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌), a research fellow at Academia Sinica's Institute of Sociology, said the 16-year-old singer's response to the incident had a profound impact on Taiwanese voters and added about 1 to 2 percentage points to Tsai's winning vote total in her victory on Saturday.

The controversy occurred when Tzuyu (or Chou Tzu-yu, 周子瑜), the only Taiwanese member of the South Korean girl group Twice, was apparently forced to apologize late Friday for waving an ROC flag on a South Korean TV show.

The display drew an angry response from fans in China after a China-based Taiwanese singer, Huang An (黃安), called the 16-year-old a supporter of Taiwan independence.

The protests reportedly cost Tzuyu an endorsement deal with a Chinese smartphone vendor.

Just hours before the Taiwanese people went to the polls, a video clip was released in which Tzuyu said that "there is only one China ... I have always felt proud of being Chinese," while reading from a prepared text with her voice shaking.

It was an apology that "profoundly affected people," Hsiao said.

Tsai won over her Kuomintang rival Eric Chu (朱立倫) with 56.12 percent of the vote to Chu's 31.04 percent. Her party also secured 68 of the 113 seats in the Legislative Yuan in Saturday's national elections.

Tzuyu's wan and sallow appearance on the video sparked an outcry by local netizens, who complained that the young entertainer was forced to be Chinese as if she were a hostage held by ISIS.

To protest, they decided to return home to cast their ballots, according to posts on social media networks.

Psychiatrist Kung Fan-chin (孔繁錦) said that if the Tzuyu case happened earlier, it would not have affected the election, but because it happened Friday, voters reacted immediately at the ballot box and blasted China for going too far.

The apology was a commercial move by Tzuyu to save her career as an entertainer, Kung said, but the case evoked "the deepest fears" of Taiwanese people that they could be forced to give up their nationality if they want to do business with China, he said.

Meanwhile, Chang Wu-yueh (張五岳), director of the Graduate Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University, said the incident aroused conflicts between young Internet surfers of the two sides across Taiwan Strait, who went each other with emotional words.

The case also exposed the unstable side of the cross-strait relations, Chang said, and he urged Tsai to seek mutual trust with high-ranking officials in Beijing and act to lower misgivings between peoples of the two sides.

"Peace and stability will mean nothing if there is no mutual trust," Chang said.

(By Elizabeth Hsu; click here for the full coverage of the elections.)