by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: KMT Party Caucus
MUCH MOCKERY of the KMT has ensued online after an incident last week at a protest outside of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). In particular, criticisms of the KMT have ensued for using the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH)‘s emergency room to stage a photo op for campaigning purposes.
KMT politicians were demonstrating outside of MOFA regarding accusations against Internet influencer Slow Yang that she spread disinformation which caused the suicide of Taiwanese diplomat Su Chi-cheng in Osaka last year, after false reports began appearing on social media that the Chinese embassy had stepped in to aid Taiwanese stranded in Japan after Typhoon Jebi last year when the Taiwanese representative office in Osaka did not do so.
It is claimed that Yang did this as a form of damage control for Frank Hsieh of the DPP, who is Taiwan’s representative to Japan. This would be by attempting to pin blame for the incident on Su, and throwing him under the bus in this way. It is unclear why Yang would do this, seeing creating falsified news of an incident in which the Chinese embassy stepped in to assume responsibilities that the Taiwanese representative office failed to uphold would still reflect badly on Hsieh and the Tsai administration, but the KMT more broadly claims that Yang’s services were retained by the DPP in order to influence public opinion through social media.
For its part, the DPP has downplayed past ties between Yang and Hsieh, as well as pointed to incidents in which Yang attacked other DPP politicians, seemingly on behalf of the KMT. However, with growing concerns in Taiwan about how disinformation efforts by the Chinese government could affect the course of elections, claims that the Taiwanese representative office in Osaka had failed to help Taiwanese stranded in Japan after Typhoon Jebi were previously seen as disinformation originating from China. Su’s suicide was previously seen as one of the most concrete examples in which disinformation efforts by the Chinese government had had real-world effects.
KMT politicians have seized on the issue as a way of attacking the DPP. The KMT stands to potentially benefit from Chinese election interference and, as such, would likely be hoping to avoid allegations of benefiting from Chinese disinformation by preemptively accusing the DPP of engaging in disinformation efforts.
This is a way the KMT has held several demonstrations regarding the issue in the past week, including holding a demonstration outside of the Executive Yuan yesterday, a demonstration last Tuesday in which they blocked an elevator at the MOFA and paraded a coffin around, and the demonstration last Friday, during which there was tussling between KMT politicans and police.
The KMT has attempted to claim that police violence was used against them. After video footage showed KMT legislator Arthur Chen pushing a policewoman wearing a camp, the KMT claimed that the policewoman was in plainclothes and had refused to identify herself. Likewise, video shows KMT legislators Lin Te-fu and William Tseng, as well as Taipei city councilor William Hsu and New Taipei city councilor Lin Chin-chieh confronting workers at the MOFA, accusing them of being National Security Bureau agents.
KMT legislators Chen Yu-jen and Lin Yu-hua later visited the emergency room of NTUH, claiming that they had been injured by police. What has prompted much criticism, however, was that KMT candidate Han Kuo-yu would later visit the two to stage a photo op, circulating a photo of Han standing over an apparently unconscious Chen in a hospital bed and that photos showed Chen on oxygen despite that her injuries should not have been so heavy.
Apart from that Chen and Lin are accused of seriously exaggerating their injuries, the KMT has been criticized for occupying space in an emergency room for publicity purposes. Accusations have also been made that KMT legislators were given special treatment in the NTUH hospital, with claims that NTUH may have allowed KMT legislators to skip ahead of other emergency room patients or provided them with a special room. Stoking further controversy, an image purporting to show a flow chart from NTUH specifying procedures provide special treatment for legislators or individuals brought to the hospital by legislators was circulated online. The hospital later confirmed the chart as one that had been drawn up by the hospital but claimed it had never been used.
In the wake of the image of Han visiting Chen circulating widely online, there has been much mockery of the KMT. A number of images circulate online showing individuals with minor injuries receiving hospital images. MOFA later filed a complaint against the KMT legislators present then. However, it is probable that the KMT will continue to try and attack the DPP regarding Su Chi-cheng’s suicide and allegations that DPP disinformation efforts were what led to the death.