KMT voters say 'Han Tide' can wash away Tsai

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 16 Jul 2019

A populist mayor who favors closer ties with Beijing has been named the candidate for Taiwan's main opposition party as it looks to unseat President Tsai Ing-wen.

Han Kuo-yu won the primary for the Kuomintang, seeing off a challenge from Taiwan's richest man, billionaire Foxconn founder Terry Gou Tai-ming.

That sets up an unpredictable clash when Taiwan goes to the polls in January.

Han, 62, has enjoyed a stunning rise from obscurity to become his party's candidate in a phenomenon dubbed the "Han Tide."

Some have likened him to US President Donald Trump and other populists who hail from outside establishment circles but command fervent followings on lofty promises of resurrecting fortunes.

Han won 45 percent of votes cast in the KMT's primary, which polls people by telephone, compared with 68-year-old Gou's 28 percent, a setback for a man who made his fortune assembling iPhones and other devices in mainland factories.

Han won the Kaohsiung mayoralty in elections last year - a shock in a southern city long a heartland for Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party. He mustered huge crowds during campaigning, vowing to restore warm ties with Beijing and revamp the economy.

"Taiwanese people have been living difficult lives in the past three years," he declared after the primary result was announced.

Gou, who hinted he might run as an independent if he lost, congratulated Han.

Relations with Beijing have soured since Tsai arrived in power in 2016 as her party refuses to accept Taiwan is part of one China.

And Tsai, 62, has described the 2020 election as a "fight for freedom and democracy."

Han has shown a knack for using criticism to his advantage. When a spokesman for Tsai dismissed him as a bumpkin by calling Han an "earthen steamed bun" he responded by presiding over a steamed bun cooking competition. He also embraced nicknames like "Vegetable Man" - a reference to a job as general manager of the Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corp.

A bellicose New Year speech by President Xi Jinping and the current chaos in Hong Kong has inflamed fears in Taiwan over what the future holds if Beijing has its way, with Tsai seeing her poll ratings rise.

Editorial: Protesters are heaven-sent for Tsai


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