Taiwan Quick Take: Baby Race to the Bottom

Of all the presidential races in Taiwan’s history, this one has had by far the most absurd moments.  Obviously, the absurdity isn’t on the part of President Tsai Ing-wen: It would be tough to find anyone with more discipline in word choices and in action, making even the famously unflappable US President “no drama” Obama seem like a reckless, off-the-cuff sort of guy by comparison.

The absurdity is on the KMT and on their presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu’s side, and on their opponents in the anti-KMT and anti-Han Kuo-yu side.   This latest example has plenty of absurdity to go around.

It all started with KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu attending the awards ceremony of a baby race in New Taipei City.  What could possibly go wrong?  “Politicians kissing babies” is so common it is a cliche.  Judging by all the lawsuits, quite a lot.

Naturally, the “scandal” centred around Han.  The problem was, this “scandal” was founded on a rumour circulating on Facebook that Han had essentially grabbed a baby to hold without the consent of the parents.  Naturally, anti-Han groups on Facebook had a field day with it, spreading it around at social media speed.  From Taipei Times:

Rumors about Han holding the infant without her parents’ consent originated from a Facebook post by a person who claimed to be a friend of the mother, Wang told a news conference at KMT headquarters.

It was then shared by two Facebook fan pages — “No KMT is Good” (打馬悍將粉絲團) and “Just Against the Blue” (只是堵藍) — before SETN picked up the story, she said.

Yes, you read that correctly: SETN News picked up a Facebook rumour being touted around on openly anti-KMT and anti-Han Facebook pages and ran with it as news.  Han’s spox was absolutely right to slam the news network for reporting on a rumour:

Given the news network’s “apparent bias,” starting today, the campaign office’s spokespeople would no longer attend any talk shows produced by SETN, she said.

“All their news reports and programs are just pretending to be unbiased,” she said.

“They have lost their credibility,” she added.

She continued, however, with this threat:

The office today is to file criminal charges against all responsible persons in the Facebook groups and SETN for spreading false reports about the mayor, Han’s spokesman Cheng Chao-hsin (鄭照新) said.

If the Han campaign follows through this could lead to a bunch of  Facebook users and people at SETN with criminal records if convicted.  Well, that’s that, right?  It was a baby race for crying out loud, it couldn’t get any worse, could it?  In this presidential race, of course it can!

Before the news conference, the infant’s father, surnamed Wang (王), told reporters that since the mayor was presenting an award to his daughter, it would have been strange to refuse Han.

He is not a fan of the mayor, but “it is not like Han was a homeless man or a bad guy,” he said.

Considering all the property transactions that Han and his wife have engaged in, it would indeed be odd if he were homeless, though not sure if homelessness is the first thing one should be looking for in qualities to keep someone away from holding a baby, but I digress.  He continues:

Certain media and netizens have overinterpreted the incident, he said, adding that he did not like seeing a simple baby race turned into a campaign against the mayor.

Yes, exactly.  This is perfectly sensible observation, and it’s good to finally see some sanity in this situation, and the absurdity finally stop.  Haha, just kidding, it’s about to ramp up another notch!

However, he plans to press charges against physician Chiang Kuan-yu (姜冠宇) for posting a composite picture showing Han hugging his daughter and an infant with herpes rashes, Wang said.

Chiang did not ask for his permission to use the picture of his daughter and his post has led to many verbal attacks, Wang said.

That’s right, now this has ramped up to an image of Han holding a baby with herpes and–if they follow through–another lawsuit between random attendees of a baby race and a doctor they’ve never met who pictorially associated their baby with herpes in a picture with their baby being held by Han Kuo-yu.  I’ll bet they didn’t expect their day at a baby race to end up with their baby associated with both Han Kuo-yu and herpes.

Which begs the question, why would anyone take a picture of Han Kuo-yu holding a baby and think, “oh, I know what this picture needs, another infant with herpes”?  The doctor had this to say:

In response, Chiang said that the father might have overreacted and both pictures had been published by media.

The post was made for the sole purpose of educating the public about risks of infections for infants when they make contact with people outside their home, he said, adding that the post included links to related articles.

That’s right, this doctor saw reports about rumours about Han Kuo-yu holding a baby without the parent’s consent, and thought–without the parent’s consent–that the picture of their beloved child needed to be used to educate people on risks of infants getting herpes when in contact with strangers, in this graphic implying Han Kuo-yu could potentially be a carrier of diseases and give infants herpes.

But he says he’s the victim, according to him:

Since Sunday evening, he has been harassed by numerous telephone calls from unidentified numbers, he said.

If necessary, he would talk to a lawyer and consider taking legal action, he added.

That’s right, possibly more lawsuits.  And all Han did was attend a baby race like a perfectly normal politician.

Welcome to the 2020 presidential race circus.

Image from Now News report

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