TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Despite, or perhaps because of the controversy swirling around Taiwan's 'bread master' Wu Pao-chun (吳寶春), a photo has surfaced showing his Kaohsiung bakery packed with customers and a report of his bread being sold out.
The controversy started when Chinese netizens started calling for boycotts of Wu's new bakery in Shanghai, which opened for a trial run on Friday (Dec. 7), after a rumor was spread on Weibo that he had said, "I will never come to the mainland even if I’m starving." In fact, he was quoted by Taiwan People News two years ago as saying, "although China has a market of 1.3 billion people, the whole world has more than 7 billion people, so I won’t just look to China."
Many Chinese netizens also began making malicious comments about Wu’s bakery products on a popular Chinese consumer product website, labeling his pastries as "Taiwan independence bread."
In an attempt to appease Chinese netizes, Wu released a statement on Monday afternoon (Dec. 10), in which he described himself as a baker born in "Taiwan, China," who is "proud of being Chinese," and that he supports the "1992 Consensus." However, this in turn outraged many Taiwanese by his sudden, apparent kowtowing to Beijing's bullying, and in response, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday said, "Taiwanese people can tell that this is political oppression. China’s maneuvers will not be accepted by Taiwanese people."
Yesterday (Dec. 11), under the pretense of avoiding getting engaged in politics, Wu invited controversial Kuomintang (KMT) politician and mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) to help him weather the "I am Chinese" storm at a press conference. During the press conference Wu said:
"Thank you very much for the mayor's support of my profession. I am a professional baker. The world of bread is simple and happy. I like and enjoy making friends with you through bread. I am honored that many young people are willing to enter this industry because of me. I have a responsibility to create a bigger market for young people. Finally, Wu Pao-chun is still Wu Pao-chun. I am a very simple baker."
Wu. (Photo from Wu Pao-chun's Facebook page)
When asked by reporters to respond to criticism from Chinese netizens that he was pro-Taiwan independence and to counter arguments that he is pro-Communist China by Taiwanese netizens, Wu declared, "I am a baker, and my specialty is making bread." Han then chimed in and said, "There are too many political issues, he's not the one to deal with them, just let him do a good job in the bread profession."
Before the press conference, angry pro-Taiwan protestors outside could be heard shouting "Taiwanese people should have a backbone!" while pro-China demonstrators could be heard shouting "You're Tsai Ing-wen's running dog!" The scene was tense at times when the two sides would try to out shout each other.
Later that afternoon, former KMT legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) posted a photo purported to have been taken that day of Wu's Kaohsiung bakery, with every seat taken by customers. Tsai joked that he came to see Wu's "Taiwan independence bread," "bread made in Taiwan, China," "1992 Consensus Bread," and "the light of Taiwan bread."
Tsai said that not only most of the bread was sold out, but there was a long line at the checkout counter.