A married Taiwanese legislator was caught cohabitating with another woman, who turned out to be a fellow politician of the same party. The revelation has been making headline news on Taiwanese media for weeks now and is turned out to be a major embarrassment for the ruling party despite the fact that the said legislator, a rising star and a noted propagandist for the Tsai Ing-wen government, still vehemently refuses to admit the scandalous nature of the affair.
Wang Ting-yu, a member of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan representing the sixth district of Tainan City, is a well-known if not controversial figure of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Known for his large social media following on Facebook where he shares daily update of his work, his takes on various political issues, and his supposed devotion to his wife and simple family life in Tainan. Until two weeks ago little was known, however, that Wang had been living in a small and inconspicuous Taipei apartment dwelling for months if not years together with Yen Jo-fang (顏若芳), a DPP party spokeswoman who’s 17 years his junior.
The affair was first exposed on March 9 by Taiwan’s online publication Mirror Media, which placed a surveillance outside the small apartment that recorded a trove of photos of video showing Wang and Yen entering and exiting the apartment lobby almost on a daily basis across a period of a few months. Wang reportedly lived at the apartment, which is rented by Yen, on most if not all the weekdays and only took trips back to his home in Tainan during the weekend. Wang was also recorded to have stayed overnight at Yen place on his wife’s birthday, despite having also posted a family photo on Facebook the same day supposedly celebrating the occasion and declaring his love for his wife.
The Mirror Media revelation immediately made headlines news on all major Taiwanese media, with the notable exception of two pro-DPP media outlets Sanlih E-Television (SETTV) and Formosa Television (FTV) which refused to air anything on the story. Taiwanese business tycoon Lin Kun-hai (林崑海), the chairman of SETTV and a major shareholder of FTV, is the leader of a powerful faction inside the DPP known as the “Hai faction” of which Wang is a key member. Multiple complaints have been lodged with Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) demanding the agency to investigate whether Lin, as the owner of the said TV channels, interfered with or suppressed the editorial process of the channels to protect one of his political stooges.
Since the story broke Wang and Yen have rejected any allegation of affair and insisted that the two were merely “sharing an apartment”. Wang also claimed he was simply “renting a room” from Yen to save money on living expense in Taipei, despite the fact Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan provides free residential hall for all legislators right next to the parliament building.
But although Wang continues his legislator work as usual and even went on to some pro-DPP talk shows to defend himself loudly, Yen has not appeared in public since the scandal broke. It was even reported that Yen was suspended from her spokeswoman position in the DPP as a “punishment” for disgracing the party. This raises the question whether there’s unequal, misogynist treatment of the incident on the part of the DPP, which is supposedly a progressive, socially liberal political party that markets itself as some champion of women’s rights and gender equality.
Salacious stories of extramarital affairs and sexual proclivities have always been the favorite headline material for Taiwan’s tabloid media. Taiwanese politicians are generally quick to apologize and admit wrongdoing publicly if they were caught with pants down. In this case however, Wang’s refusal to admit any improper relationship resulted in a massive wave of negative comments and ridicules from fellow political figures and online netizens. “Wang Ting-yu”, “Yen Jo-fang”, and “cohabitation” became the top social media search terms for days following the first revelation.
Wang also appears to have dug the hole further for himself when he boasted on March 18, during an interview with a pro-DPP radio host, that his living arrangement with Yen was “nothing out of ordinary” because he had also “lived together” with a female student many years ago during his time in college, who Wang said later also became a politician and a legislator.
The “female student” in question was quickly identified as Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純), a fellow DPP legislator representing Taichung City’s 7th district. When asked by Taiwanese media, Ho quickly rebuked Wang’s statements as a red herring and stressed that there were actually four students, including Wang and herself, renting the same apartment flat. Ho also said that four college students sharing a flat was no comparison nor justification to the kind of situation and controversy Wang found himself in today.
Ho later also alleged that Wang sent her “multiple texts” demanding her not to undermine his public defense further, to an extent that Ho felt she was being harassed by Wang.
“Wang should really explain himself to the public and not making up more rumor about others,” a visibly irritated Ho told the media, “You can make up a hundred lies to cover that one lie, it still doesn’t make it true.”
Master of Misinformation
A loyal defender and propagandist of the Tsai Ing-wen government, Wang Ting-yu is among the most vocal Taiwanese political figures on social media. Besides being one of the most highly-followed Taiwanese politicians on Facebook, Wang also maintains a profile on Twitter which is apparently aimed at international audience and foreign journalists who are unfamiliar with his checkered reputation in Taiwan.
Wang has had a long record of spreading misinformation via social media and public statements, many of which were reported and amplified without fact-checking by Taiwanese media and social media influencers. It does not help that Wang is a member of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, as a result uninformed reporters and writers in international media and English language Twitter handles frequently quoted Wang as some source of authority on Taiwan’s national security and military matters, when in fact Wang has no access to classified information and is a noted misinformation spreader if not conspiracy theorist in Taiwan.
Some examples are:
- At the height of Hong Kong anti-extradition law protests in 2019, Wang was the source of a viral, yet bogus story (which was either fabricated by Wang or taken from obscure social media rumor) claiming that then Cathay Pacific Group CEO Rupert Hogg resigned to protect employees from Chinese government persecution. Nothing of sort ever happened according to Cathay Pacific statements, aviation reporters and industry insiders in Hong Kong. Wang’s social media post that started the said misinformation garnered hundreds of thousands of likes and shares and is still viewable today.
- On January 2, 2020, a Taiwanese Air Force helicopter carrying a group of high-ranking generals crashed in Yilan mountain. Despite having no access to the rescue team nor any actual on-site information, Wang quickly posted on Facebook in the first minutes following the news of the crash that “everyone survived and are all rescued!” The post received tens of thousands of likes and shares. It later turned out that eight people, including Taiwanese military’s chief of staff tragically died in the crash. Wang was condemned by many for spreading misinformation.
- On March 23, 2020, the U.S. 7th Fleet shared on social media an image of destroyer USS Barry conducting a missile test in an unspecified location. Despite having no access to such intelligence, Wang quickly posted on Facebook and baselessly claimed that USS Barry fired the missile in the South China Sea and that such test was “a US response to internal unrest inside China”. The said missile test was later revealed to have taken place in the Philippines Sea. One Taiwanese military analyst later commented that Wang’s social media posts are just “a bunch of rubbish”.
- In September 2020, Wang alleged during a political talk show segment that the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Island in the South China Sea was “surrounded” by Chinese military ships for days. The allegation was reported by several Taiwan media without fact-checking and quickly picked up by multiple uninformed English language Twitter handles as proof of “Chinese aggression” against Taiwan. Taiwan’s Coast Guard firmly rebuked the allegation as baseless. An investigation by Taiwan’s United Daily speculated that Wang misrepresented, either mistakenly or purposefully, some reports of movements of large Chinese fishing fleets during a busy fishing season (which were completely routine) as that of the “Chinese military”.
- Over the course of 2020 U.S. Presidential election, Wang was one of the numerous pro-DPP/DPP political figures and key opinion leaders in Taiwan to have explicitly supported and praised President Donald Trump (whom they perceived as more supportive of Taiwan and Tsai Ing-wen government). What is more, Wang shared/amplified several allegations concerning then Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and his alleged business ties to the Chinese government. Such as one Facebook post made on October 23, 2020, which Wang quoted, mistranslated, and exaggerated a Fox news report to give Taiwanese readers the false impression that the Bidens were under FBI investigation and that some “explosive revelations” were about to change the course of US presidential campaign.
(Paul Huang contributed to this story.)
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