Taiwan’s largest opposition party, Kuomintang (KMT) was recently met with criticism after branding Singaporean activist Roy Ngerng as an “extreme white supremacist” in its reply to his remarks on the Taiwanese government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement efforts.
In a string of tweets on Thursday (10 June), Mr Ngerng praised President Tsai Ing-wen’s move to build Taiwan’s relationship with other democracies “so well” that countries such as Japan and the United States “are coming to Taiwan’s aid so quickly, without Taiwan having to lose its integrity, dignity and sovereignty”.
Japan has donated 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan, while the U.S. said it will send 750,000 COVID-19 jabs to Taiwan as a part of its global vaccine distribution plan.
“The fact is that if it were @kuomintang which would focus on building ties with China, this would mean bowing down to China and sacrificing Taiwan’s integrity and sovereignty for the sake of a low-quality relationship based on subservience, subpar vaccines and democratic decline,” he added.
The fact is that if it were @kuomintang which would focus on building ties with China, this would mean bowing down to China and sacrificing Taiwan’s integrity and sovereignty for the sake of a low-quality relationship based on subservience, subpar vaccines and democratic decline.
— Roy Ngerng 鄞義林 (@royngerng) June 10, 2021
In a now-deleted tweet, KMT’s official account said, just seven minutes after Mr Ngerng posted his tweet: “The cognitive dissonance of being such an extreme white supremacist whilst being a PoC (person of colour) must be extremely painful, for you.”
The party also appeared to take a jibe at Japan’s support for the Taiwanese government’s efforts, saying: “And before you respond with ‘but muh Japan,’ please read up on the history and popularity of why anime is so popular in the land of the rising sun.”
Taiwan News reported that while the KMT had deleted its tweet in under an hour, screenshots of the tweet made their rounds on the social media platform and other websites such as Reddit.
The KMT subsequently posted an apology, stating that it was “indeed inappropriate and inconsiderable (sic)” for it to have made such statements.
It went on to say that the party would like to “sincerely apologize to anyone that might be offended by the content of the reply”, but did not insert any mention of Mr Ngerng.
The KMT deleted the apology, posting another with the word “inconsiderable” changed to “inconsiderate”.
KMT deleted the previous article and apologized for the second time. https://t.co/b3rpDSuFwi
— 🦥｜xii·吸吸 (@xiooiooix) June 10, 2021
The KMT told Taiwan News in response to queries that the offending tweet reply to Mr Ngerng was “unauthorized”.
It added that the party has “sent a tweet to Mr. Ngerng Yi Ling in English as soon as possible”.
“We also expressed our deepest apologies to Mr. Ngerng Yi Ling and other Twitter users who felt offended by seeing this tweet in English.
“At the same time, we also proactively relayed our apologies for this matter to reporters from foreign media stationed in Taiwan, diplomats stationed in Taiwan, and domestic media reporters. The international department will also send a formal apology letter to Mr. Ngerng,” said KMT.
The party also told Taiwan News that it has started reviewing “the relevant procedural controls to prevent similar mistakes from occurring in the future”.
Mr Ngerng told Hong Kong Free Press that while KMT’s apology was the “appropriate” thing to do, his criticism of the party still stands.
“[The KMT’s] now-deleted post has a similar tone and posture to propaganda narratives and information operations conducted by the Chinese government… if this is the mindset behind how [KMT] conducts itself, it is unhealthy for Taiwan’s politics,” he said.
“If the KMT wants to play a meaningful role in Taiwan’s politics and as an opposition, it has to adapt to the times. Instead of positioning itself towards China, it would be more fruitful to re-orientate towards the needs of Taiwanese and young people,” Mr Ngerng added.
Shen-yi Liao, who teaches Philosophy at the University of Puget Sound, said that KMT’s earlier labelling of Mr Ngerng as an “extreme white supremacist” is “awfully familiar”, as it is a common move on the part of the Chinese state media and spokesperson accounts to weaponise “racism in the US and the West to deflect criticism”.
“The style of the tweet is straight outta Chinese influence ops,” said Assoc Prof Liao.
It may be irrelevant to Taiwan’s politics. But those who follow Chinese state media and spokesperson accounts will recognize this move, using racism in the US and the West to deflect criticism, as awfully familiar. The style of the tweet is straight outta Chinese influence ops. https://t.co/vF1DRNx3uV
— 廖顯禕 / Shen-yi Liao (@liaoshenyi) June 10, 2021