‘We are a democracy’: Taiwan’s voters raise their voice

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s voters go to the polls on January 13 to elect a new president.
Their choices are frontrunner Lai Ching-te from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, major opposition Kuomintang candidate Hou Yu-ih, and Taiwan People’s Party leader Ko Wen-je.
Here is a look at three of their supporters:
Hsu Yu-chia, 20
University student Hsu Yu-chia said his political coming-of-age happened in 2019, when a pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong brought hundreds of thousands to the streets calling for more autonomy from Beijing.
From democratic Taiwan, he watched the protests on the news with rapt attention.
“I started paying attention to political issues relating to Hong Kong and China,” the 20-year-old law student told AFP.
“It was also during that time that I began to see we are separate from China and that Taiwan should not return to the old ‘one China’.”
China claims the island as part of its territory and has stepped up pressures on Taiwan in recent years, angered by the current DPP-led administration for its independence-leaning stance.
Come January 13, Hsu will be among an estimated one million new voters participating in Taiwan’s election.
A staunch DPP supporter, Hsu spends his free time outside of his studies campaigning for them.
“I feel afraid about war breaking out to some degree. But for me the way to avoid war is to prepare ourselves for war — no way we are kneeling down,” he says.
“From Tibet to Hong Kong, there have been so many previous lessons.”
– Huang Min-sheng, 66
Bed-and-breakfast owner Huang Min-sheng said the streets of Kinmen, an outlying island located just a short ferry ride from China’s shores, used to be packed with tourists.
“There were very open communications between both sides (Taiwan and China) during the Ma Ying-jeou government,” said the 66-year-old, referring to the previous presidency led then by opposition KMT.
But China has ramped up tensions with Taiwan since the DPP administration took over, affecting cross-strait tourism.
“Hou Yu-ih said he’ll open up (to China) if he wins,” Huang said.
His entire family are KMT supporters — much like the majority of the small island — and he proudly flies the party’s signature blue flag outside his historic courtyard home that dates back to the Qing dynasty.
China has also increasingly flexed its military might, running massive drills around Taiwan that have Kinmen residents worried.
“As long as there is no war and both sides continue to communicate with each other, this is the best,” Huang said.
“I hope for a change of government… Are you more well off compared to eight years ago? If not, let someone else govern because we are a democracy.”
– Penny Huang, 44 –
“In the last 30 years of Blue (KMT) and Green (DPP) bi-partisan fighting, the people are the biggest losers,” declared Penny Huang.
The resident of Hsinchu — a northern city home to Taiwan’s powerhouse semiconductor industry — said most of her family are “deep blue”, staunch supporters of the KMT.
But the 44-year-old has long been disillusioned by the party, and says she has chosen to cast her ballot based on policy.
And this year, it is TPP led by Ko Wen-je that will get her vote.
“They have a clean image of honesty and integrity and they strive for the welfare of the people,” the homemaker said, adding that “if Ko promises something, he will keep his words.”
Her mornings are spent canvassing near a busy Hsinchu street, holding up Ko’s poster and distributing flyers.
“It is not easy for a third political party, the TPP, to emerge and to counter blue and green parties,” she said.
“We really hope that it can end the vicious fight… and lead us to a future of new politics and new culture.”
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