by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Lin Fei-fan/Facebook

DPP LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATE Lin Fei-fan, best known as one of the student leaders of the 2014 Sunflower Movement, announced his withdrawal from the 2024 legislative elections yesterday in a surprise move. This was to take responsibility for the current wave of controversies faced by the DPP regarding issues of sexual harassment within the party, seeing as Lin was seen as responsible through overseeing the DPP’s Gender Equality Committee during his period as a deputy secretary-general of the party–even if he did not commit any acts of wrongdoing.

Lin previously was slated to run in the Zhongshan and North Songshan areas of Taipei. This was the electoral district in which the DPP previously ran Enoch Wu unsuccessfully against current Taipei mayor Chiang Wan-an, Chiang having previously been legislator of the area. To this extent, Wu could not win against Wang Hung-wei of the KMT in a by-election to fill Chiang’s position after he became Taipei mayor either, as a result of which Wang currently is legislator of the area.

The DPP would have been repeating its practice of running younger candidates in areas of Taiwan that traditionally slant pan-Blue, as a means of testing them, while also utilizing them to brand the party as one with a number of fresh faces and that allows young people to have space to develop their political talents.

Facebook post by Lin about his withdrawal

Given his role in the Sunflower Movement, Lin would have served as the centerpiece for an electoral slate in Taipei and New Taipei that also included other prominent former Sunflower Movement activists such as Wu Pei-yi, Wu Cheng, and Tseng Po-yu. Although the DPP saw some internal controversy from recruiting party outsiders, who were not historically members of the party but rather independents, this would have allowed the DPP to brand itself as on the side of the “Sunflower generation” and in this way embodying the voices of Taiwanese young people.

This, too, proved the logic behind Lin joining the party in 2019. Lin was recruited ahead of 2020 presidential and legislative elections, so as to frame the party as having the support of young people.

That being said, it was a question as to whether Lin could have won, given Wu’s lack of success in the Zhongshan and North Songshan areas. As Wu’s disappointing results during the by-election for Chiang’s seat foreclosed the possibility of his running again, the DPP may have meant to try its chances with a new face in the area. It was a strategic choice by the DPP to run him in Zhongshan and North Songshan rather than Lin’s native Tainan.

There had already been resignations of individuals in the DPP who were not accused of being participants in acts of sexual harassment or assault themselves, but of not doing enough, or covering up incidents. This is what led to the resignation of Hsu Chia-tien, who was directly implicated in the initial Facebook post that sparked the current wave of Me Too-style sexual harassment and assault allegations as blaming the victim and pushing her to keep silent. By contrast, other DPP higher-ups such as deputy director Lin Nan-ku of the Organizational Department were directly accused of sexual harassment.

Yet even if Lin himself was not responsible for any personal acts, nor responsible for ordering a cover-up, responsibility is still seen as devolving upward to Lin. This, then, is the reason for his resignation, perhaps not dissimilar to how mayors, presidents, and premiers are often called to task for acts of wrongdoing by their subordinates.

Facebook post by former DPP secretary-general Luo Wen-jia about Lin’s withdrawal

In particular, by quickly dropping Lin’s legislative run, the DPP is probably hoping to prevent a repeat of the thesis plagiarism scandal that impacted the 2022 elections. Despite calls within the DPP to quickly drop Taoyuan mayoral candidate Lin Chih-chien, to avoid affecting the DPP’s other mayoral runs elsewhere, the DPP proved reluctant to do so. This was ultimately to its detriment. As such, the DPP seems to have decided to quickly swap out Lin this time around.

Similarly, the resignation will be framed as the DPP being more willing to take action on the issue of sexual harassment or assault than the DPP. Former DPP secretary-general Luo Wen-jia praised Lin for his willingness to withdraw to make amends while criticizing his opponent Wang for defending members of the KMT accused of sexual harassment such as legislator Chen Xue-sheng, for example.

But, to this extent, in noting how Lin was seen as responsible for the actions of his subordinates, this also illustrates the angle of attack that the DPP is likely to take regarding pan-Blue politicians who themselves may become indirectly implicated in sexual harassment or assault from subordinates, in suggesting that responsibility devolves upwards. One has already seen this take place with regards to cases of sexual harassment and assault in the Taipei and New Taipei city governments. This is to be expected, seeing as the KMT is fielding New Taipei mayor Hou You-yi as its presidential candidate, while former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je is running as well.

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