ke wenzhe

Mayor of Taipei Ke Wenzhe Draws Ire After Calling Hong Kong ‘Boring’ and Singapore ‘A Canary in a Cage’


Ke Wenzhe (photo by zhenghu feng via Wikimedia Commons)

Taipei mayor Ke Wenzhe is famous for his gaffes. In a 2014 speech he said that a female nominee for mayor of a city in central Taiwan couldn’t handle the job because she was “young and beautiful” and should rather work as a receptionist or appear in a tourism advertisement. Days later he said that while working at National Taiwan University Hospital he eliminated the obstetrics and gynecology department because he didn’t want to “make a living between women’s legs.”

In January 2015, visiting British Transport Minister Susan Kramer presented him with a pocket watch. Giving a watch or clock as a gift is a taboo in Taiwanese and Chinese culture because the sentence “giving a clock” sounds in Mandarin like “bidding farewell” to a deceased. Asked by reporters if he felt comfortable with the gift, Ke joked that he might “sell it to a scrap metal dealer for some money, because it would be useless to me.”

Ke Wenzhe often had to apologize for his blunders. He justified himself by saying that he is “having a hard time transforming [himself] from a doctor to a politician.” However, in recent days Ke has once again drawn ire after offensive comments about some of Taiwan‘s neighbours.

During a trip to Thailand last month he said that “Hong Kong is a small island with no attractions”. His comments drew angry reactions from Hongkongers.

Today he once again stunned his audience at a conference organized by Taiwanese news outlet The Journalist when he made derogatory comments about various Asian countries.


Taipei City Hall and Taipei 101 (photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons)

He criticized Thailand because it has a military regime and has held no elections in three years. He said Malaysia has religious and ethnic conflicts, characterized Singapore as a “canary living in a cage”, and remarked that India is incapable of harmonizing Hinduism and Islam.

According to Taiwanese tabloid Apple Daily, after making these remarks Ke paused for a few seconds, as if he hesitated, and then doubled down on Hong Kong: “Hong Kong is not just small,” he said, “but it also has no elections. There’s nothing to admire [about Hong Kong]. It has no spirit of freedom, and no free elections.”

Ke Wenzhe went on praising Taiwan, saying that during his recent visit to neighbouring nations he found out that Malaysian lawmakers admire Taiwan’s democracy and values, and discovered how much East and Southeast Asian people “admire Taipei.”

You may like:

National Geographic Traveler: Taiwan

Shelley Rigger: Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse

Mu Shiying: Craven A and Other Stories

Jason Ng: Hong Kong State of Mind: 37 Views of a City That Doesn’t Blink


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