‘Little Red Pepper’ vs. ‘Water Spinach’
So it’s going to be a battle of “Little Red Pepper” against “Water Spinach” come next Jan. 16. Hung Hsiu-chu, Little Red Pepper, will face-off with Water Spinach, Tsai Ing-wen, in the presidential election.
Tsai, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has no problem whatsoever bearing the standard of the opposition party that is trying to claw back to power. Not so lucky is Hung, deputy speaker of the Legislative Yuan. The 67-year-old has fought every inch on her way to earn her eventual nomination for president by the Kuomintang (KMT).
Hung was ridiculed as a Dona Quixote when she declared her candidacy. She encountered the uncompromisingly peevish opposition of the KMT old guard. Though she was the only contender in the party primary, she was required to undergo the test of two party primary straw polls: one to find out whether she was supported by KMT members as their standard bearer and the other to assess her odds against Tsai. Should her voter support in the two polls be below 30 percent, she wouldn’t be nominated and the party’s all-powerful Central Standing Committee would draft a candidate more likely to win.
She passed the test. The ruling party announced the results of the
polls yesterday, but she won’t be nominated right away. She has to wait to be formally nominated at the KMT’s national party congress on July 19, the reason being that the old guard is contemplating delaying actions to find a more “electable” standard bearer.
Nevertheless, the KMT simply has to field Hung, better known as “Xiao-la-jiao” ( ) or “Little Red Pepper” because her provocatively piquant opinions contrast with the vague, conciliatory Tsai, nicknamed “Kong-xin-cai” ( ) or “Water Spinach,” because her words lack substance like the hollow stem of the popular vegetable found on the dining tables of Taiwan.
In the process of winning the nomination, Hung is acquiring a charisma like Ko Wen-je, or Ko P (P. standing for Professor) who started as a Don Quixote and wound up getting elected mayor of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city. Where is the source of her newly acquired charisma?
Unlike almost all politicians, Hung is honest and sincere. She calls a spade a spade. She has criticized the KMT for being paralyzed by the mantra “selling out Taiwan” that the DPP’s uses to criticize the KMT’s “China-leaning” policies — so much so that the critical CrossStrait Trade in Services Agreement, signed in Shanghai in June 2013, has been stalled in the Legislative Yuan almost indefinitely.
The KMT denied Hung a party election broadcast, forcing her to make a campaign speech before its Central Standing Committee instead. She proffered her principle of “one China” to replace the “1992 Consensus” as the modus vivendi for the ongoing peaceful development of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Tsai, who rejects the modus vivendi, offers the maintenance of the cross- strait status quo in accordance with “the will of the people and the existing constitutional order.”
It’s an example of Tsai’s gobbledygook. Hung’s “one China principle” is unmistakably clear. She described Taiwan and mainland China as “one nation with two political entities sharing sovereignty” ( ) , and insisted that a peace accord be signed to end the Chinese Civil War. Her China policy basically is the same as President Ma Ying-jeou’s, except her insistence on the conclusion of the peace accord that he promised in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election but reneged on after his election.
In her campaign speech, titled “The Roads,” Hung vowed to tear down the two ancestral tablets of “Taiwan independence” and “abandoning nuclear power,” the Democratic Progressive Party’s Holy Grail. She pointed out that the Taiwan independence populism of the opposition party is threatening national security, imposing selfseclusion on national development, prolonging economic stagnation and carrying on the communal feud in society. Abandoning nuclear power, she said, is an irresponsible populist option turning the problem of multiple choice into a true/false question. The right road leading to the end of nuclear power generation in Taiwan is through increasing the use of low-carbon power and developing renewable energy.
Born in New Taipei City in 1948, Hung speaks Hoklo or Amoy much better than Tsai drawls her native Hakka. It’s a big asset to win the hearts of the majority of Hoklospeaking voters of Taiwan, where the Hakka are a small majority. A mainland Chinese, Ma isn’t truly liked by the Hoklo speakers, be- cause he can’t handle their native tongue.
There is one more asset that Hung hasn’t let people know about. Her mainland Chinese father was a victim of the bloody Feb. 28 Incident of 1947. He was the deputy superintendent of a sugar mill at Houli, near Taichung. Arrested during the suppression of the riots, he was imprisoned for three years and persecuted afterward during the reign of white terror in Taiwan. Little Red Pepper grew up in poverty, worked through college, and started her political career after serving as a high school director of student affairs.
Above all, Hung is a rare politician of probity. Even Ma, with a very clean image, was involved in Accountgate, remaining the defendant in the trial of misappropriation of his expense account while running for president in 2008. Tsai was accused of contracting government work out to the TaiMed Biologics while she was vice premier.
Little Red Pepper’s charisma will grow as she campaigns in the next seven months. Water Spinach, buoyed by the landslide victory for the DPP in the nationwide combined local elections last Nov. 29 and her successful “campaign” tour of the United States, now does not appear as invincible as she was before the once derided starry-eyed daydreamer emerged as her rival in next year’s presidential race.