Taiwan TV commentator calls out Han on oil drilling pipe dream

Kaohsiung mayor in hot water after commentator dredges up footage showing him promising to drill for oil on Taiping Island

Han Kuo-yu.

Han Kuo-yu. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In response to itinerant Kaohsiung mayor and Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu's (韓國瑜) denial that he had made a promise to raise money for the city by drilling for oil in the South China Sea, political critic Huang Kuang-chin (黃光芹) cited excerpts from a previous interview in which Han made such a pledge.

During a visit on Monday (Sept. 23) to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus at the city council, Kaohsiung City Councilor Kao Min-lin (高閔琳) asked Han how much of the budget had been allocated for oil drilling on Taiping Island (太平島) of the Spratly Islands (南沙群島). Han then replied, "Who said anything about drilling for oil?"

On her political commentary program "News Face-to-Face" (新聞面對面) on Tuesday, Huang said Han has stepped on a big "landmine" this time, "because even children know that Han had pledged to drill for oil on Taiping Island, and there is even combustible ice." Huang said that she not only has audio and video of Han making this promise but an entire interview in which he focused on the topic.

Huang said that in the original interview, Han said he could rely on the Love River's "love industry," oil drilling on Taiping Island, and attracting Disneyland "to pay off Kaohsiung's NT$300 billion in debt without spending a dime." When asked by TV show host Arthur Hsieh (謝震武) when Han had made such a promise, Huang said that the radio interview had taken place in August.

Screenshot of Huang interviewing Han in March.

Huang said that during the interview, she asked Han how oil would be extracted from Taiping Island. Han responded that he would seek out "world-famous oil companies." "When they understand what we want to do, they will drill for us through holding companies," said Han.

When Huang asked Han the worst-case scenario question "What if no oil is found and there is a loss?" he replied, "[The oil companies] are responsible for their profits and losses." Huang said she has both audio and video files of Han claiming he could pay off Kaohsiung's NT$300 billion worth of debts in this way.

Huang said that although Han had not listed oil drilling in his official election paper, he had mentioned the proposal in the mayoral debate on Nov. 19, 2018. She said he was being disingenuous when he responded fiercely to questions by DPP city councilors about drilling on Taiping Island "as if he had eaten an explosive."

The commentator then said, "Not everything can be so black. You say others are black, yet you blackened yourself. You blackened yourself with the things you said." She added, "You said it too many times. You stood on a televised debate to provide your political opinions. You could have said you could not do that. That it was actually conditional at the time. That it was actually impossible."

She said that as mayor of Kaohsiung, Han has the obligation to make his policies clear to the voters. In the past, he put forward the idea that formal political opinions need not be printed in black and white, "but the price was tremendous," said Huang, who called on the mayor to apologize for his actions.