Sexist remarks on Tsai Ing-wen spark outrage in China, Taiwan

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks in front of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) logo before their party meeting in Taipei. PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING • A Chinese official has sparked outrage on both sides of the Taiwan Strait with his comments that new Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is "extreme" because she is single and childless.

In a lengthy analysis published on Tuesday, Mr Wang Weixing said that Ms Tsai was likely to hold radical views that could encourage her to seek formal independence from China because she was unmarried and had no children.

"As a single female politician, she does not have the emotional burden of love, of 'family' or children. So her political style and strategy tend to be emotional, personalised and extreme," said Mr Wang.

He is an official from the Association of Relations across the Taiwan Straits (Arats) and a senior military officer and director of foreign studies with the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Sciences. Arats is a semi-official body that handles relations with Taiwan.

Mr Wang said that Ms Tsai would be different from her predecessors.

She would seek "hidden independence" and provoke Beijing to destroy peace in the strait, he wrote in the lengthy opinion piece carried by the International Herald Leader, a newspaper run by the official Xinhua news agency.

"When we deal with Tsai, we must always consider important factors such as her experience, personality and psychological traits," Mr Wang wrote. "This is essentially a contest of will and wisdom."

He also dug up Ms Tsai's family history in his analysis of the new leader's personality, reported South China Morning Post yesterday.

He claimed that because Ms Tsai's father had more than one wife, it affected her personality and caused her to lack a sense of security.

His controversial views appeared to have united social media users on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, rallying behind the 59-year-old, who has been outspoken about her single status.

They poured scorn on Xinhua with some netizens pointing to South Korean President Park Geun Hye and former Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi as successful, single Asian female politicians, reported CNN.

"This was the stupidest and most offensive thing I have read in ages," said a post from a Weibo user from the Chinese capital, Beijing.

"Many women abroad admire Ms Tsai's tenacity and drive, especially the fact she is strong and independent and does not need a man to rule."

Others accused the mainland state media of being overly sexist and falling ill with "Straight Man Cancer" - a popular Chinese term that refers to chauvinist, judgmental behaviour that belittles women.

Over in Taiwan, netizens on the popular PTT forum were discussing the "poor taste" of opinions expressed towards their leader, reported BBC News.

Amid growing outrage, the piece was eventually removed from the International Herald Leader's website, but can still be found on other news portals and microblogging accounts.

Professor Alex Huang, a spokesman for Ms Tsai, told the BBC News that her office had "no comments" in response to the piece.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported that the Foreign Ministry is planning a trip next month by Ms Tsai to Panama and Paraguay - two diplomatic allies of Taiwan in Central and South America.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline Sexist remarks on Tsai Ing-wen spark outrage in China, Taiwan. Subscribe