Taipei, April 9 (CNA) Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) angered Hong Kong people again Sunday, belittling the "tiny island" for not having elections or "even a soul for freedom" and immediately drawing a protest from a Hong Kong democracy activist.
Gary Wong (黃梓謙), a member of the board of the Path of Democracy, urged Ko to "correct" his "soulless" remarks, saying that many in Hong Kong's culture sector are disappointed at Ko's failure to respond to their invitation to visit Hong Kong.
During a recent visit to Bangkok to promote Taipei tourism, Ko described Hong Kong as a "boring place with few tourist attractions, unlike Taipei."
He later explained that his description of Hong Kong as a tiny boring island was intended to highlight the fact that Taipei is a more enjoyable city, where even TV pundit shows are popular among Chinese visitors.
During a speech at an Eslite Bookstore in downtown Taipei Sunday, Ko continued to boast about Taiwan's democracy, saying that people in Southeast Asia and India envy Taiwan's democracy "to the extent of drooling."
Thailand has been under a coup d'etat government for over three years, with no elections having been held; Malaysia is plagued by its religious and ethnic problems; in India, Muslim and Hindu followers simply cannot get along; and Singaporeans are "caged canaries," he said.
As for Hong Kong, Ko said, "it does not even have elections" and Hong Kong people have lost "even their souls for freedom."
Wong, who was in the audience, raised his objections and demanded that Ko correct his remarks about Hong Kong people not having free souls. Wong himself took part in Hong Kong's legislative elections in 2016.
Wong said that Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong each have their own strengths worthy of note. For instance, what Ko has touted as Taipei's administrative achievements were actually achieved in Hong Kong 20 years ago, he added.
In response, Ko said that Wong is right and that Taiwan has a big problem of poor economy at the moment. "Our (per capita) GDP is only half that of Singapore's, which is a fact; our internationalization is behind Hong Kong's, which is also a fact."
What he can really boast about, he went on, is Taiwan's freedom, democracy, and multi-cultural and open-door policy -- "which are our greatest assets at this moment."
Wong later told reporters that as a political leader, Ko should be careful with what he says, especially when making comments about other countries.
"Young people in Hong Kong have shown their goodwill toward the mayor, inviting him to visit Hong Kong and promising to take him to some points of interest that ordinary tourists customarily do not visit. But our invitation has yet to receive a reply from him," Wong said.
(By Liang Pei-chi and S.C. Chang)