'I Felt That I Could Only Make a Real Impact if I Got Elected'

china-wangwanyu2-010320.gif Wang Wan-yu, a New Power Party candidate for election to Taiwan's legislature, is shown in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Chang Tzu-wu

In the last few days of campaigning ahead of the Jan. 11 general election, which will choose the next president and Legislative Yuan, RFA tracked down some of the women running for seats in the legislature, and spoke to them about what drives their political careers and ambitions.

Teng Hui-wen is a celebrity psychiatrist known for her columns and appearances on TV and radio, where she speaks and writes about gender, sex, and marriage.

Now a Green Party legislative candidate, Teng said her role has changed considerably, though she remains in the public eye.

"In the past I think I was more of a channel for understanding various topics ... I could bring up certain topics ... without the need for blame or hostility," Teng said. "Now, I have to check first before I say anything whether I am campaigning for votes, trying to steal votes from other parties, or expressing a point of view."

"Anything I say or expression has to come under one of those categories," she said. "Of course it's hard."

Now, Teng says she relishes the opportunity to make a concrete difference to people's lives.

"In the past, my articles may have had tens of thousands of views, and attracted enthusiastic comments from thousands of people on Facebook," she said. "But they couldn't do anything to change a law that violated people's rights or interests."

"There are a lot of things that I want to change, so I felt that I could only make a real impact if I got elected to the Legislative Yuan," Teng said.

'I just wanted to carry on doing what I do'

Wang Wan-yu first entered the public gaze as a victim in a horrific crime: she was the mother of a four-year-old girl nicknamed Little Light Bulb who was hacked to death by a mentally ill attacker even as she tried to fight him off.

Now, Wang says she wants to channel her grief into strength and help to reform Taiwan's judiciary, and she is standing as a legislative candidate for the New Power Party, a progressive, pro-independence party born out of the 2014 Sunflower student-led protest movement.

"They approached me to carry on doing what I'd been doing all along," Wang said. "I've never cared much about politics, fame, or profit."

"I just wanted to carry on doing what I do, both in the role of mother and victim, and also in a different role if I got the chance," she said. "There are various directions I could go in."

Wang says her main policy focus is on representation and participation of victims in the criminal justice system, as well as building a social welfare safety net for the most vulnerable and boosting access to education and technology.

'I hadn't foreseen the events of the past year'

Retired Kaohsiung Medical University professor Cheng Ling-fang is a seasoned researcher in the field of gender studies in medicine, and is standing for the legislature on the Taiwan State Building Party ticket, propelled by a profound sense of anxiety about Taiwan's future.

"During the Sunflower Movement, I encouraged my students to take to the streets and participate in public affairs, but I was really just giving advice in the role of their teacher," Cheng told RFA.

"I had originally planned to take up hiking in the mountains when I retired, or enjoy my new freedom," she said. "But I hadn't foreseen the events of the past year, including events in Hong Kong and political infiltration [by China] from across the strait."

"I felt anxiety of a kind I had never experienced before," Cheng said. "It seemed that all the things I had fought for for all of my life were about to disintegrate."

She said it is encouraging to see so many women running in the current campaign, but cautioned against assuming that all women were working for the same thing.

"I'm glad to see so many women from other parties coming out, but gender is not the key factor: it's the kind of interests and class background that is behind [candidates]," she said.

'The southern point of view'

Cheng said that she was never an admirer of late former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

"Those aren't the kind of conservative values I agree with," she said.

Cheng comes from a family that followed the falling Kuomintang regime under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to Taipei after it lost the civil war to Mao Zedong's communists in 1949.

But she says she has "put down roots" in Kaohsiung, typically a stronghold of Taiwan-born families speaking the Taiwanese language rather than the Mandarin Chinese of the incoming KMT regime.

"I put down roots here in Kaohsiung 20 years ago, and have experienced first-hand the huge and pervasive gap between the allocation of resources in the north [of the island] and in the south," she said.

"We are the only political party that approaches things from the southern point of view," Cheng said.

Reported by Chang Tzu-wu for the online Taiwan news magazine The Reporter, and republished and rebroadcast under a collaborative project with RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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