Click above for Foreign Policy’s clip of the original recording of Mayor Ko Wen-je’s interview.
Taipei’s Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has caused controversy again, making front pages in Taiwan after he reportedly said that colonization made Taiwan’s culture more “advanced” than China’s, and that Taiwan and China should pursue “Two Countries One System” first.In an interview with US magazine Foreign Policy, Ko said that of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, the longer a region is colonized the more “advanced” it is. He also said that Taiwan needs to convince China that a free and democratic Taiwan, not unification, is “more in China’s interests.”
Finally, Ko said that understanding and cooperation between the two sides are more important than reunification. “If reunification is achieved without cooperation, it will be meaningless.”
According to Foreign Policy, the interview was conducted in “a combination of Chinese and English” and “has been condensed for clarity.” This morning, Foreign Policy released a recording of the original interview, available here.
After the article was reported by Chinese-language media in Taiwan, critics blasted Ko for putting colonization in a positive light. The pro-Beijing Global Times in China criticized Ko’s comments in an editorial, calling him “crazed” for “not putting his pro-independence sentiments in check.”
This was not the first time Ko’s comments defied conventional political decorum. During his campaign last year, he said of a female candidate that she was more suited for a receptionist for her looks; just earlier this month, after the British transport minister gave him a watch as a gift, Ko joked he could sell it for scrap metal.
But many in Taiwan say that Ko’s straight-talking style is a breath of fresh air for Taiwan’s political scene. He was elected to Taipei mayor in a landslide, with broad bi-partisan support. Since taking office on December 25th, he has already taken on illegal buildings, the large developer Farglory (遠雄) over the Taipei Dome project, and Terry Guo (郭台銘), the president of iPhone maker Foxconn. He also implemented online resident referendums for city policies and official appointments.
While he said he won’t run in the upcoming 2016 presidential election, he has enlisted James Soong, a former KMT governor who ran for president in 2000, as his top adviser.
As for the FP interview, Ko first said his meaning was muddled by the translation, but later apologized and admitted he did use the word “colonization” but did not express himself clearly enough.
(Feature photo of Ko Wen-je on Wikicommons, CC BY-SA 2.0)