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Youtube capture of Chou Tzu-Yyu waving a Taiwan flag.

Teen pop star Chou Tzu-yu’s apology for waving Taiwan flag swayed young voters for DPP

Controversial video helped DPP secure support, according to survey by cross-strait think thank

Tsai Ing-wen

Some 1.34 million of the young voters who took part in Taiwan’s election were pushed to the polls or changed their vote after learning a local pop singer was forced to apologise for waving the island’s flag, a survey by a cross-strait think tank has found.

Tsai Ing-wen, the candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president after securing 56 per cent of votes, despite a low turnout. Only 66 per cent of registered voters cast ballots, or 12.45 million people in total, the smallest proportion for a presidential contest since 1996.

The Cross-Strait Policy Association said the DPP secured the strong showing amid the low turnout due to the participation of younger voters. More than 1.34 million young people took part, with many swayed by the incident, said the association’s secretary general, Hung Yaonan.

“Why did Tsai Ing-wen still receive 6.89 million votes given such a low rate?” Hung said. “It was because many youngsters later replaced the senior groups, with many voting for Tsai after the ... controversial apology.”

Watch: Taiwan youth to China: Treat us like a country

The singer, 16-year-old Chou Tzu-yu was forced to apologise for holding the Taiwanese flag during an appearance on South Korean TV in November. The incident raised issues about Taiwan’s identity and its relationship with the mainland, which considers the island a breakaway province. It was widely speculated her management company forced her to make the apology, which came on Friday, to avoid upsetting mainlanders, a key market.

Hung said the association’s online survey found many of the young voters were deeply angry over the incident.

READ MORE - Who is 16-year-old girl Chou Tzu-Yu at the centre of a political storm ahead of Taiwan’s presidential poll?


Chiu Chui-cheng, a professor at National Quemoy University, said the apology had reminded Taiwan’s young people that the “one China” policy remained a concern in daily life.

Wang Dan, a Tiananmen Square protest leader who now lives on the island, said President Ma Ying-jeou and his defeated Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party had often stressed their achievements in improving cross-strait ties over the past eight years.

“But Chou’s incident came all of a sudden the night before the election day, and it’s a slap in his face,” Wang said.

Hung Pui-tsuen, a Taipei housewife, 40, said her family felt “very uncomfortable” when seeing Chou apologise. “It’s such bullying. How could the Chinese be so harsh ... to a young girl!”

Additional reporting by Samuel Chan