Taiwan election blog: singer Chou Tzu-yu’s apology steals the show early, but will Tsai Ing-wen make history as first female president?
The people of Taiwan are expected to elect their first female president today, with the island's ties to China a deciding factor between opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen and her main challenger after voting kicks off at 8am.
All eyes are on whether the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party will rule both the executive and legislature branches for the first time.
Tsai of the China-sceptic DPP enjoys a comfortable lead over the ruling party candidate, largely due to widespread discontent over current president Ma Ying-jeou's policies, which have been criticised as too pro-Beijing.
Several polls conducted last week suggest Tsai is around 20 percentage points ahead of her main rival, Eric Chu Li-luan , the candidate for the ruling Nationalists (KMT).
But it is another Taiwanese lady - K-pop singer Chou Tzu-Yu - who has been drawing almost as much attention this morning after she issued an apology overnight through her South Korean entertainment agency for a flag-waving incident that may see her become a poster child for Taiwan’s independence.
SEE 9AM BLOG POST BELOW FOR MORE DETAILS
SCMP.com is now wrapping up our live blog temporarily as the people of Taiwan continue to cast their ballots for the next few hours, but we will resume blogging later this afternoon as the race takes shape.
Thanks for staying tuned. Keep abreast of the latest developments by referring to our Taiwan election topic page for more information throughout the day.
Eric Chu has just cast his vote, as shown below in the video grab from Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou cast his ballot in Taipei at around 9:30am, according to reports. He specifically addressed the issue of Chou’s apology by saying: “Citizens who love the Republic of China are never pro-independence supporters. We should all support them for loving the Republic of China.”
— Tan Qiuyi 陈秋仪 (@QiuyiCNA) January 14, 2016
Dressed in a dark jacket, Tsai cast her ballots at around 9:30 am as hundreds of people, including dozens of journalists, surrounded the polling station. She addressed the Chou issue afterwards.
“I believe everyone feels hurt and angry to see that Chou was forced to do what she was made to do. This has offended and hurt the feelings of the people of Taiwan. Everyone should unite to voice their belief to the world that no national of the Republic of China should be [attacked] for identifying with her country.”
It’s a family affair for some voters, even if their kids are still a little young to weigh in on the official decision.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou “regrets the incident happened and sympathises with” Chou Tzu-Yu, he said Saturday morning through presidential spokesperson Charles Chen.
Chou said earlier in the clip of her apologising, which was released by her entertainment agency JYP Entertainment, that she would suspend all of her performance in “China” - which pundits have taken to mean both the mainland and Taiwan.
“No citizen should be punished for recognising the Republic of China and expression their affection for the national flag,” Ma said.
Eric Chu, KMT’s candidate for today’s presidential race, said late Friday night that what Chou experienced “is too cruel for a sixteen-year-old”.
“Welcome home, Chou Tzu-Yu,” he said on his Facebook page around midnight.
All three presidential candidates, Tsai Ing-wen, Eric Chu Li-luan of the KMT, and James Soong Chu-yu of the People First Party, also expressed their regret, saying no one should try to deprive a Taiwan national of the right to hold a Taiwan national flag.
Voters are queuing to cast their ballots at polling stations around Taipei during the general elections, but how many will show their faith in People First Party (PFP) chairperson and presidential candidate James Soong Chu-yu , considered a dark horse in the race?
Online debate about an apology issued Friday night by 16-year-old Taiwanese singer Chou Tzu-Yu is still going viral. Chou performs as part of the South Korean K-pop girl group Twice.
She said sorry to the public for waving a national flag on a TV show in November, after fellow singer Huang An blasted Chou for being a supporter of Taiwanese independence.
“Sorry, I should have apologised earlier, but I did not know how to face the public,” said Chou, as she read from a script.
“There’s only one China. The two sides of the strait belong to one unified entity. I’ve always been proud to be Chinese.”
WATCH: Chou Tzu-Yu’s apology for waving Taiwan’s national flag on TV
Taiwan’s quickly evolving identity and the island’s policies towards Beijing have always been at the core of controversy between the pro-reunion KMT and the China- sceptic DPP.
But there are growing signs that the young generation of Taiwanese voters feel increasingly detached from mainland China.
Most of the comments issued online in response to the Chou-Huang brouhaha are skewing towards sympathising with Chou.
Some Taiwanese netizens have described a clip of Chou apologising as an example of “cyber bullying” on YouTube.
tzuyu doesnt have to apologize but she did, when will c-netz and huang an apologize for spreading false informations and causing hate huh?
— JUSTICE FOR TZUYU (@JYPETWICES) January 15, 2016
Others went even further, comparing the video in which she appears pale and sad to videos of hostages begging for their lives released by the Islamist militant group ISIS.
Young people are expected to play a larger role in this year’s election in the make of the much-publicised sunflower movement.
One voter who identified himself as David Chou cast his ballot at 8:40am and said he voted for “Light up Taiwan”, referring to the campaign slogan of Tsai Ying-wen.
“I will give my vote to whoever can uphold social justice,” said the 23-year-old, who admitted it was his first-ever trip to a polling station.
“Many of my friends who had never voted before will also do so today.”
As election fever in the capital of Taiwan heats up, the media scrum begins...
— Klaus Bardenhagen (@taiwanreporter) January 16, 2016
As the clock has struck 8am, some 18.7 million eligible voters are now able to cast their ballots at 15,582 polling stations across the island. Opinion polls have Tsai as the clear front-runner in today’s race. Voting finishes at 4pm, after which many pundits expect Taiwan to join the list of Asian nations operating under their first elected female leader including South Korea (Park Geun-hye).