Conversing with a Han fan: How Kaohsiung voters are trying to justify voting for Han Kuo-yu

The mindset of Han Kuo-yu supporters in Kaohsiung highlights challenge Taiwan’s democracy is facing

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Central News Agency (CNA)

Central News Agency (CNA)

KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) -- For those of us in Kaohsiung who were not persuaded by bombastic rhetoric, highfalutin policy pledges, and the gregarious persona of the Kuomintang's (KMT’s) Mayor-elect, Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the ten days or so since his election success have been a long and confusing time.

After twenty years of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) governance, Kaohsiung City Hall will be occupied by the KMT from Dec. 25 and the stark reality is that no one really knows what Han will bring to the city over the next four years.

But if anyone thought that speaking to the Han fans, who continue to rejoice in their successful campaign, might shed some light on what a Han administration will look like, they are sadly mistaken.

Despite the numerous revelations, both before and since the election, about who this man really is and what he actually represents, the brainwashed masses in Kaohsiung are still adamant that Han is the right choice for the city. And it seems that just about anything could come out about him and they would not change their mind.

If you do find yourself engaging a Han fan in a political discussion, the chances are it will go something like this:

You: So, you voted for Han Kuo-yu at this election. Why do you now endorse the KMT’s party policies having voted DPP for so long?

Han Fan: Mr Han isn’t really a KMT politician. He is a man of the people. I wasn’t voting for the KMT, I was voting for Mr Han.

You: But he was a KMT legislator for nine years. And he recently ran for Chairmanship of the KMT, finishing fourth out of six candidates with just 5.8% of the vote. Oh, and he is the KMT chapter director in Kaohsiung as well as being the party’s official Mayoral candidate.

Han Fan: Yes, but Mr Han isn’t really a KMT politician. He is his own man. He is our man. He speaks for the people of Kaohsiung.

You: How so? He only moved to Kaohsiung earlier this year.

Han Fan: Mr Han is going to make Kaohsiung a better place. He is going to make us all richer.

You: Yes, how exactly is he going to do that?

Han Fan: Mr Han is going to attract jobs and investment and make young people stay in Kaohsiung rather than becoming "northern ramblers."

You: He has said that, but how exactly?

Han Fan: Er… he has already found at least ten businesses that want to invest in Kaohsiung.

You: Yes, but discussions with all those companies over investment were already underway under the current DPP administration. Han is just trying to take the credit for them.

Han Fan: That is all just DPP lies and propaganda. Besides, he wants to build a theme park with a big Ferris wheel by Love River and a casino on Cijin.

You: Wasn’t a Love River Ferris wheel Chen Chu’s (陳菊) idea? And Kaohsiung already has big Ferris wheels at Dream Mall and E-Da. Cijin is culturally, historically, and industrially important area and a casino could destroy all of that. Anyway, those ideas might make the people who own and run the businesses richer, but how will it make ordinary Kaohsiungers like you richer?

Han Fan: Er…

You: Han has promised to increase the population of Kaohsiung from 2.7 million to 5 million people. Is that really a good idea? Kaohsiung is already overcrowded, blighted with traffic problems on major routes, and shrouded in air pollution for much of the year. Is it really a good idea to try and double its population in just four years?

Han Fan: More people will want to live in Kaohsiung because Mr Han is going to make everyone richer.

You: [Rolling eyes] So you said. Do you support the "1992 Consensus" like he does?

Han Fan: What’s the "1992 Consensus?"

You: Really? It’s the alleged agreement between the former Taiwanese Government and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides agreed that there is "One China," but with different interpretations of what that means. Former KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) has admitted making the term up in 2000, but both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the KMT still consider it the bedrock of cross-Straits relations.

Han Fan: Han is a great man and he was elected by the people of Taiwan to teach the DPP a lesson. This is all just DPP lies and propaganda.

You: But he endorsed the "1992 Consensus" in his first speech after his election. He directly said he supported it.

Han Fan: If the Chinese start coming back again, the economy will grow and the people of Kaohsiung will get richer.

You: But Kaohsiung’s economy has grown since the CCP started stopping Chinese tourists from visiting. And it is well known that Chinese tourists almost always spend their money in Chinese-owned hotels and businesses.

Han Fan: If more Chinese tourists come, we will all be richer. Mr Han says so.

You: Han turned down the chance to visit China with Foxconn Technology Chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) citing unspecified health concerns and immediately after the election, he returned to his home in Yunlin to rest. There has been no public statements about his health. Is this something the people of Kaohsiung should be worried about?

Han Fan: No. Mr Han is fine. He is a great man.

You: Are you not worried that he is trying to appoint to his Cabinet a man currently facing criminal charges for fraud and other serious financial crimes.

Han Fan: No.

You: Are you not worried about Han’s historic links to organized criminal gangs in Taipei?

Han Fan: That’s all DPP lies and propaganda.

You: It’s another proven fact. But never mind. Do you think that a man who believes it is acceptable to go up behind a man in Taiwan’s national Parliament and punch him in the head so hard he is hospitalized for three days is really fit to lead Kaohsiung?

Han Fan: That’s all DPP lies and propaganda.

You: It’s on video and Han has admitted it.

Han Fan: …

You: Ok. So, if you are happy to accept all the other lies and scandal that have engulfed Han, what about the fact that he has been convicted of killing someone and hid the fact from the electorate. Surely, that is too much even for you?

Han Fan: That is DPP lies and propaganda too.

You: [Waving arms in the air in frustration and raising voice]. No, it isn’t! It is a proven fact and Han has again admitted it himself. Do you really think the people of Kaohsiung would have elected him if they had been told beforehand that he had killed someone?

Han Fan: The mother of the victim has said that it was fine.

You: I thought you said it was all DPP lies and propaganda?

Han Fan: Er…

You: Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that by hiding his conviction from the Kaohsiung public he was deceiving them. They deserve to know all of the relevant information about their candidates before choosing who to vote for. The fact that he has been convicted of killing a man is absolutely relevant. Many people may have chosen not to vote for him had they known that…

Han Fan: But Mr. Han won by a huge margin. He got 150,000 votes more than his opponent.

You: Agreed, and shocking as it sounds to say, he might still have won the election even if the public knew he was a killer. But it is a matter of principle. The people of Kaohsiung had a right to know he had before deciding whether or not to vote for him. Hiding the fact was effectively subverting the democratic process. If it happened in any other democracy, there would be an outcry and he would probably be forced to resign.

Han Fan: Han is a great man and he was elected by the people of Taiwan to teach the DPP a lesson. This is all just DPP lies and propaganda.

You: [Banging head on table in frustration]. Fine. You voted for him. You have to live with him for four years. [Moves to Taipei]

This might seem exaggerated, but it is a genuine reflection of conversations that are taking place right across Kaohsiung as we speak.

The fans of Han Kuo-yu revere him as if he was the leader of a cult. They have been conditioned by months, if not years, of LINE posts, Facebook messages, fake news videos, and DPP failings, which have succeeded in demonizing the DPP to such an extent that even a violent convicted killer who is appointing fraudsters to his cabinet and who has absolutely no clear policy ideas, is still seen as a preferable Mayor of Kaohsiung to anyone from the DPP.

This is the mindset that the DPP, and indeed everyone in Taiwan who values the country’s hard-earned democratic system, needs to counter. And they need to do it fast! In just two years, Taiwan will hold its presidential elections. Who is to say that Han Kuo-yu will not throw his hat into the ring there as well? Or even someone worse!