SOCIAL MEDIA: The president’s Lunar New Year greetings in English and Japanese angered some Chinese netizens, who said that she should have stuck to using Mandarin
By Sean Lin / Staff reporter
Lunar New Year messages from President Tsai Ing-wen （蔡英文） on Twitter yesterday sparked a war of words between Taiwanese and Chinese netizens.
“From the people of Taiwan, we wish everyone a bright and prosperous Year of the Rooster,” Tsai wrote in separate messages in English and Japanese to Internet and social media users.
Her messages drew a torrent of criticism from Chinese netizens, with some leaving vitriolic comments that accused Tsai of pandering to Japan and the US by favoring Japanese and English over Chinese.
Saying that the Japanese do not celebrate the Lunar New Year, a number of the Chinese critics accused Tsai of “selling out to Japan,” while others referenced the oppression perpetrated by the Japanese government during the Japanese colonial era in Taiwan.
Tsai should have tweeted in Mandarin instead, as Chinese characters belong to China, several Chinese said.
However, Taiwanese were quick to argue the claim, with one saying that Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia all use Chinese characters.
Chinese netizens should “stay out of other people’s business,” another said.
One Taiwanese netizen said that Tsai and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je （柯文哲） tweet in English as a means of diplomacy, while another said that most Taiwanese tend to use other social networking platforms more than Twitter.
The Presidential Office said Tsai’s tweet shows the president has a cosmopolitan world view, adding that it was meant to wish all Twitter users a happy Lunar New Year.
People should be magnanimous over the holiday, the office said.
Tsai spent the first day of the Year of the Rooster visiting temples around the nation to ask for blessings from the gods and distributing hongbao （紅包）, or red envelopes, each with a NT$1 coin inside, to crowds of people hoping to receive an envelope from her personally.
The tradition of the president distributing hongbao on the first day of the new lunar year was begun by former president Lee Teng-hui （李登輝） in his hometown.
Tsai’s first stop was the Jue Siou Temple （覺修宮） in Taipei, where she made an offering of incense and prayed for the blessings of the temple god. She then proceeded to visit Fu-an Temple in Pingtung County’s Checheng Township （車城）, where she handed out red envelopes to the throngs of people who had waited in long lines.
Many in the crowd shouted: “Welcome home, president.”
Tsai also visited Fenggang Village （楓港） in the county’s Fangshan Township （枋山）, where her ancestral home is located and where she was warmly received by residents.
“We are glad that President Tsai has not forgotten about the support people in her hometown have shown her,” one resident said.
Tsai also visited temples in Tainan, Chiayi and Kaohsiung.
The outside of Tsai’s envelope featured a rooster along with wishes for a happy new year in Chinese and English and the signatures of Tsai and Vice President Chen Chien-jen （陳建仁）.