Kaohsiung City Council question-and-answer sessions with the mayor and city government department heads serve a legitimate purpose, but recently they have descended into political theater.
Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has failed to learn the valuable lesson placed before him and has allowed the spectacle to snowball. Some city councilors, smelling blood, have exacerbated the situation. The media have been eager to capitalize on it.
The residents of Kaohsiung deserve better.
Yesterday morning, New Power Party Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (黃捷) directed her questions at the department heads, instead of first asking the mayor, as is the common practice. Huang later said that it was better to simply “dial the extension number than go through the operator,” and that it was a waste of time asking Han.
On May 3, Huang rolled her eyes when it became apparent that Han was unable to provide answers about his idea for free economic pilot zones.
On Thursday last week, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Kaohsiung City Councilor Kang Yu-cheng (康裕成) ended a testy exchange with the mayor by saying: “I do not know how I can continue, as Mayor Han seems clueless about all of my questions.”
On Monday, DPP Kaohsiung City Councilor Lin Chih-hung (林智鴻) sought to push the point further home with a barrage of 20 questions, testing Han over details such as what is Kaohsiung’s northernmost administrative district, which district has the lowest population and which deity is worshiped at Wujia Longcheng Temple.
No doubt Lin’s idea was to highlight gaps in Han’s knowledge of the city’s geography and policies, but critics could legitimately accuse him of putting on a show. He knew Han would not be able to answer, but Han is not a Kaohsiung native and has only been in the job for four months.
Han had no intention of answering and merely delegated to the relevant department head. Before he sat down after each response, he made sure to punctuate his answer with his now-familiar riposte: “Enrich Kaohsiung.” At one point he punched the air with both hands, like a boxer having executed the perfect knockout. The media lapped it up: It makes for excellent political theater and is great click bait.
Huang was right to have questioned Han on the pilot zones proposals. Having shown his ignorance, the mayor had the opportunity to reflect on this and prepare prior to the next session. He clearly did not, and his opponents honed in on his shortcomings. Under Lin’s questioning, he resorted to rather childish tactics to divert attention from his ignorance. He fully deserved being slighted by Huang yesterday.
His advisers were likely concerned about how this was affecting his “brand.” Cue ridiculous diversionary moves, such as declaring that he would govern from Kaohsiung if elected president, or a story that a publisher was considering creating a superhero out of him. The comic character idea is genius, as superheroes rely entirely on a suspension of belief to work, as does the possibility of believing that Han is presidential material.
The idea of a president working out of Kaohsiung simply to accommodate Han’s wishes of not being seen as abandoning the city that he promised to transform speaks of gargantuan narcissism and irresponsibility. That narcissism is aided and abetted by the media attention for every move he makes.