With less than a week before Taiwan’s 2020 presidential and legislative election, on-the-ground work is intensifying. Taipei’s Da’an district, where the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has always faced uphill battles, is no different.
In 2016, former student activist from the 1990s Wild Lily Movement and former head of the Social Democratic Party Fan Yun ran in the election, but lost by ten points. This year, the DPP is fielding Harvard graduate Hsieh Pei-fen (no relation) after nominating Fan as one of its party list legislators.
I visited the district on December 31st 2019 to see how it is going for them.
Two claw machines filled with Winnie the Pooh dolls caught my attention as soon as I arrived at the office. “Resist China, Protect Taiwan,” the sign says, inviting passersby to enter and have a try at grabbing Pooh, a parody of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Chien started off the conversation by introducing Hsieh’s experience with diplomacy. Hsieh has served as a diplomat to the UN for Tuvalu, and has a degree from both Harvard’s Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.
“What is the biggest challenge to Taiwan for getting into international organizations?” Hsieh points to China’s expansionism as a threat. Hsieh told the audience that though Washington had been hopeful to integrate China through contact and economic ties, China has in fact turned more authoritarian. Authoritarian China has been compressing democratic Taiwan’s international space, Hsieh added.
“What challenges have you faced being a young competitor?” another asked. Hsieh is well aware of the fact that her district, Da’an, has voted for a KMT legislator consistently. Regardless, Hsieh believes that the current political environment is different. Since the start of the Hong Kong protests, many in Taiwan have seen how “one country, two system” does not work for the people. Under “one country,” Hsieh claims, there is not really “two systems,” and opposition are met with violence and suppression. Therefore, “Protect the Country, Save Taiwan” is a slogan of the DPP this election.
Hsieh applauds young Taiwanese for standing up for themselves.