EDITORIAL: Ko’s bike trip looks like a TPP stunt

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) plans to set off on a 365km bicycle trip from Taipei to Kaohsiung this morning, his last long-distance bicycle trip as mayor of Taipei. However, his intentions are questionable.

Departing from Taipei’s Guandu Temple (關渡宮) at 6 a.m. and ending at Kaohsiung Dayi Municipal High School in the early hours of tomorrow, the mayor is expected to complete the arduous journey in around 9 p.m.

Ko took his first one-day bicycle trip south on February 28, 2016 – the 520 km “twin towers” trip from Fuguijiao Lighthouse (富貴角燈塔) in Keelung to Oluanpi Lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔) in Pingtung County.

Ko, the grandson of an Incident 228 victim, said at the time that the trip was meant to “seek redemption of the soul with physical commitment” and “open up a future of tolerance and forgiveness with sweat”, replacing “tears filled with resentment and hate.”

In the following years, he undertook three one-day bicycle trips from Taipei to Kaohsiung on February 28 – in 2017, 2019 and last year – but each was interrupted when he returned to Taipei to attend a commemoration. incident’s annual 228. event, ending the final leg later in the day, drawing criticism for its showmanship.

The Taipei Sports Ministry allocated a budget of over NT$700,000 for the cycling event last year, much of which was used for a live online broadcast of the trip. The poor quality of the video was criticized by many people, including the mayor himself. City councilors questioned whether Ko was using city funds for his personal publicity, but the city government said the event promoted the cycling industry and fitness through sports.

Ko’s trip this year was organized by the Taipei Municipal Athletics Federation’s cycling association, perhaps to avoid similar criticism, though she nonetheless received a NT$500,000 grant from the Department of Taipei sports.

Many members of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), of which Ko is the chairman, plan to host the mayor at five rest areas. Independent Taipei City Councilman Lin Ying-meng (林穎孟) questioned whether the event was being used for election campaign purposes.

TPP spokeswoman Yang Bao-zheng (楊寶楨) denied this, saying Ko’s supporters were free to cheer and greet him no matter where he was or what he was doing.

However, Lin produced internal TPP correspondence on Friday allegedly written by the head of the party’s election task force, lawmaker Tsai Pi-ru (蔡壁如), discussing the party’s strategy for the November local elections. The five rest stations are mentioned as places where candidates, officials and party members can accommodate their president.

The TPP also launched a social media campaign on Wednesday, asking supporters to upload a photo of themselves on a bike and use one of the campaign’s three hashtags. The five lawmakers and two party spokespersons echoed the call.

The TPP yesterday denied Lin’s speculation, saying the bike trip was not organized by the party, nor an advertising campaign, and that Ko had registered as a private cycling enthusiast. Ko asked his supporters not to hold TPP banners, chant campaign slogans or take personal photos with him, the party said.

Despite these claims, the cycling event uses the name “Do the Ride Thing”, apparently a pun on “Do the Right Thing, Do Things Right” – Ko Mayor’s 2018 re-election campaign song. event, as with his cycling trips in 2019 and last year, is not promoted by the Taipei Sports Department or officials on social media, but rather enthusiastically endorsed by TPP members.

It seems natural for people to question Ko’s intentions for his final 228 bike trip as mayor.

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