Shades of Gary Locke. Once again the simple manners of a democratically elected politician have stunned Internet users in China, leaving them by turns amused and bitter.
In 2011 a photograph of newly appointed Ambassador Gary Locke fetching his own coffee from an airport Starbucks as he prepared to fly to Beijing caused a sensation in China. This time a photo of newly elected Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, alone and standing in a Taipei Metro car, has captured the imagination of China’s Internet users.
Also known by the popular nickname KP, with K standing for his last name and P standing for professor, Ko took the political landscape of Taiwan by storm on Nov. 29, 2014, as an independent candidate who won the mayoral election of the capital with a resounding margin of victory.
Posted on Facebook on Jan. 2 by Eason Huang, who runs a beauty clinic in Taipei, the Facebook picture shows Ko standing by himself with his arms folded over his chest. Standing near him is a young woman concentrating on her cellphone.
There isn’t a single bodyguard or official traveling with Ko, and neither is there any sort of media presence.
New Taipei mayor Ko was spotted in the subway and Mainland netizens are having a good time making comparisons. pic.twitter.com/cXCN0mNRwa
— edde (@Edourdoo) January 4, 2015
“A friend of mine had unexpectedly taken a picture of KP. He looks authoritative just by himself, without the police making way for him,” wrote Huang in his Facebook post. “A mayor who takes the metro like everyone else is a mayor that works for the people.”
“Only a responsible mayor has the guts to take the metro by himself,” replied Facebook user Bill Yeh. “Those who dare not are people who try to hide their illegitimate acts.”
Facebook user Liu Xinzheng commented “He is a mayor for the people, so every citizen is his body guard.”
The issue of personal security raised by the photo worried many people in Taiwan. Peggy Chen, Ko’s wife, later responded on her Facebook page, saying, “A private trip does not call for bodyguards. Ko and I went to a hot spring in Beitou. Ko asked me to sit down on a seat [of the metro car], while he stood there alone like a cute nocturnal animal.”
Beitou is a district in Taipei and is best known for its many hot springs.
Online responses from Internet users in Taiwan and China have been very different—which is not a surprise given that one is ruled by a constitutional democracy, while the other is a one-party state ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.
On the Chinese website NetEase (163.com), many Chinese netizens, while stunned at what they saw, also took a moment to reflect on the current political situation in China.
“Officials in China are a bunch of people who cannot take care of themselves. Wherever they go, there are bodyguards and people holding umbrellas for them,” wrote a Beijing netizen with the moniker fuyao8023.
“Where is your Audi? Where is your mistress? Where are your subordinates? Where is your cash? You have nothing. You are even less than a village chief [in China],” commented a netizen from Henan Province in central China, satirically addressing Ko.
“That’s right, government officials in Europe, America, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all beg the citizens for votes. In China, it is the people who beg the officials for mercy,” wrote a netizen with the nickname “Xiao Jiang Nan Qin Gong Yue” from Guangdong Province in the south.
“This is very common in a democratic society,” wrote a netizen with the nickname “Long Ge 1965” from Xinjiang Province in the northwest.
“Taiwan is the hope for China,” wrote a netizen with the moniker “110886273” from the eastern Zhejiang Province.
Please read the Chinese story.