Campaign Trail: Han rally in New Taipei (1)

On Saturday, I went to two Han campaign events in New Taipei city. The first one was an afternoon rally in Shulin. The event was billed as a sports policy event. This makes sense since the KMT’s legislative candidate in the district is Huang Chih-hsiung, who won a bronze medal in Taekwondo at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and then a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Huang served three terms in the legislature (2005-2015), one on the party list and then two from New Taipei 5th district. He lost his re-election bid in 2016 to Su Chiao-hui, who is Premier Su Tseng-chang’s oldest daughter. The 2020 election is a rematch of the 2016 election, with Huang trying to regain his old seat. Both of the candidates are hard-working, well-liked, and well-respected. This district is slightly greener than the rest of New Taipei and the overall national partisan balance, but it is certainly one that can swing either way.

I should note my personal bias at the outset. I don’t think sports administration should be a priority for any government. I don’t think public money should be pumped into creating elite athletes, building sparkling stadiums for professional (or “amateur”) games, or trying to host major international sporting events. The big competitions affiliated with the Olympic associations are extremely corrupt schemes designed to divert public money into expensive and unnecessary construction projects. I’m all for schemes to improve public health, but there isn’t much evidence that big sporting events help this. Speaking as an American, we have a constant stream of sporting spectacles and an ever-fatter population. If you want to improve public health by encouraging exercise, build more parks and bikeways and create more youth sports programs. Don’t bother with the elite sports. I guess what I’m saying is, I wasn’t ever going to be receptive, much less sympathetic to the message at this particular event.

The event was in a sports park. On the way to the event, I walked through an extreme sports park, with facilities for skateboarding, rock climbing, and other things that idiots do on made-for-TV sports shows on ESPN. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, this section of the park was nearly completely empty. The event itself was indoors, in a basketball gym. The acoustics were horrible, with the sounds echoing off all the walls. I had to stand near a speaker to get an intelligible soundstream. Of course, since I was standing near a speaker, I’m deaf now. There were about two or three thousand people in the arena, mostly people in their 50s and 60s. A few groups sat together in the stands, but the majority sitting on the floor looked as if they had not been mobilized. The crowd wasn’t huge, but it was fairly energetic and enthusiastic.

The event started just before 3:00pm with something I have never seen before at a political rally. The host led the audience in calisthenics. It was like a low-impact workout video. The were marching in place, stretching their arms, opening and closing their hands, and so on, all while the host was counting them off: one, two, three, four; two, two, three, four; three, two, three, four; four, two, three, four. At first, I was amused by this little stunt. What better way to emphasize the theme of sports than by getting the audience to participate in a bit of exercise? But it kept going on. And on. And on. I think Han Kuo-yu was a bit late in arriving, so they kept going. They did a full 20 minutes of vigorous calisthenics. I was starting to wonder about the effect of this on the rally. Either the audience would be exhausted by the time the rally started, or they would have all their blood pumping and be extra enthusiastic. (It turned out to be closer to the latter, I think.) After the 20 minutes of exercise, the hosts spoke briefly. However, they were clearly stalling for time, so they tried to do more calisthenics. The audience didn’t respond as enthusiastically the second time, and, after about five minutes, Han finally arrived.

Only three people spoke at the event. Huang Chih-hsiung talked about the details of Han’s new sports administration policy. There were three major components. First, the sports administration government agency would be upgraded to a full ministry. Second, its budget would be tripled. Third, the Han administration would make sure that Taiwan’s elite athletes could go out to participate in major competitions and that major international athletic competitions would be able to come into Taiwan. With a more robust sporting infrastructure and lots of sporting events, the whole sporting section of the population would get rich! If you think this sounds almost exactly like rhetoric from Han’s mayoral campaign last year, so do I. The KMT thinks that the Tsai government, not the PRC, is responsible for Taiwan’s isolation. When the KMT comes back into power, its new cross-strait policy will open up the world of international sports to Taiwan and everything will be glorious again. I should note that I do believe this policy will, in fact, lead to a lot of people getting rich. Unlike most of Han’s policy proposals, which depend almost entirely on the magic of opening up the China market, this one has a funding source. People will get rich because he will triple the government budget. It’s a nice marriage of classic sporting corruption with classic Han ideology!

Han Kuo-yu spoke next. I have totally forgotten what he spoke about. This is not unusual. Han has a talent for giving an engaging speech in which he doesn’t actually say anything substantive. The crowd was very responsive.

Former Taipei County magistrate Chou Hsi-wei was the last speaker. Chou was the ideological attack dog. He mostly ignored sports policy, focusing more on the controversies of the day. On this day, that meant defending Han’s real estate dealings and the KMT’s party list. At one point, he argued that, while the KMT list had been controversial, they had resolved the disputes through a series of democratic votes in democratically elected committees. This was much better than the DPP, in which the list was created by a small group of Tsai cronies without any outside influence. Of course, this is total nonsense. The KMT and DPP processes for creating their party lists were almost identical. In both cases, a small committee reporting directly to the party chair put together the list. Both lists then had to be approved by the party’s standing controlling committee. If the DPP process was closed and dictatorial, then so was the KMT’s. If the KMT’s was open and democratic, then so was the DPP’s.

The whole event was over slightly before 4:00pm. It was one of the fastest events I’ve ever seen.

Let’s exercise!

Look at how many people are joining in. It’s usually a struggle to get crowds at a political rally to wave their little flags in unison. These people are standing up and jumping around.

Now that’s enthusiasm!

Hey, remember Han’s promise to build a romantic Ferris Wheel in Kaohsiung?

Eagle? Dove? Either way, this is a pretty cool design.

Gestapo Wanna Be’s. They think they’re bad-asses. I have a slightly different opinion.

Han tells a funny story. Huang Chih-hsiung is on Han’s right. Standing next to Huang is his wife, Hung Chia-chun. Hung is a member of the New Taipei city council and is also formerly competed for the ROC in international Taekwondo competitions. The tall guy on the far right is former Taipei County commissioner, Chou Hsi-wei.

The seven items in Han’s sports policy. None of these say anything about tripling the sports administration budget, which Huang specifically mentioned in his speech. Others, like distributing funds from the sports lottery to local levels and providing lifetime income guarantees for elite athletes were not mentioned in the speech. A few other items are pretty vague and useless, like providing sports for ordinary people and developing sports enterprises.



2 Responses to “Campaign Trail: Han rally in New Taipei (1)”

  1. Zla'od Says:

    My wife works in the sports department. I tried to get her to comment, but alas, she wouldn’t be persuaded.

    From what I’ve been able to observe, they do have a “sports for all” program which encourages ordinary people to exercise. (For example, they organize mass hikes with thousands of people, and give them prizes for participating.) But in the end, they have to answer to the legislature, which is always asking them why the Chinese Taipei team didn’t win enough medals, stuff like that. The budget is closely bound up with how satisfied the legislators (and by extension, voters) are with elite sports performance.

    Another aspect is diplomacy. Since Taiwan doesn’t have much diplomatic representation, and isn’t invited to most intergovernmental meetings, sports is one of the few areas where the island can boost its international profile. Taiwan has had a few successes along these lines. That said, I think everybody involved understands how corrupt international sports organizations often are. I’ve personally lobbied for more attention to pro wrestlng (you know, fat guys jumping on top of each other and hitting each other with folding chairs), but so far have met with only prejudice!

    And don’t get me started on “e-sports”. (Gad.)

    • frozengarlic Says:

      When “Chinese Taipei” competes, does that really raise Taiwan’s or the ROC’s international profile? “Chinese Taipei” is humiliating. Also, if you think that holding (for example) the University Games in Taipei a couple years ago raised Taiwan’s international profile, please tell me any other countries that have hosted the University Games in the past decade. The only events that would raise Taiwan’s international profile are the major ones (Olympics, Asian Games, World Cup) that Taiwan will never be allowed to host. I’m not terribly unhappy about that, since they are also the biggest wastes of public money.

      I’d love to see more mass hikes, better maintained (and publicized) hiking trails, and things like that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: