Taipei mayor calls UK minister's gift 'scrap metal'

Taipei mayor calls UK minister's gift 'scrap metal'
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je.

TAIPEI - Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday said that the Farglory Group (遠雄集團) should come forward and let the public know whether the Taipei Dome (台北大巨蛋) will be suitable for baseball games upon its completion.

Ko made the statement during a press conference while meeting with the United Kingdom's Minister of State for Transport Baroness Kramer. The statement was made in response to EDGE Sports Channel (博斯運動頻道) anchor Hsu Chan-yuan's (徐展元) Facebook shout-out last Sunday.

Hsu, a local sports anchor known publicly for his flamboyant and energetic style of commentary, previously posted a comment on his social media page that implored Ko to tell the general public whether the dome could hold baseball games for the general public in the future, as rumour has it the venue will not be baseball friendly.

Hsu said that on behalf of the people, he would like the Taipei City Government to provide a clear response. If the answer is indeed "no," Hsu said, the city government ought to explain the procedures necessary for the dome to become baseball friendly.

In response, Ko said that baseball games could, of course, be held in the dome. The only question, however, is whether the games or the arena would satisfy international standards.

The mayor went on to say that since Farglory has decided to amend the design of the sports arena, the company would be the best candidate to answer Hsu's question.

Ko then implored the company to make a public guarantee that the arena would be baseball friendly, and he encouraged Farglory to reveal their letters with the International Baseball Federation.

Ko also responded to media questions regarding the collapse of the first round of negotiations with Farglory, saying that he has entrusted Deputy Mayor Teng Chia-chi (鄧家基) and his task force to pace themselves and handle the matter accordingly.

'Scrap metal' Comment

The United Kingdom's Minister of State for Transport Baroness Kramer led the British Railway Mission in a visit with Ko yesterday to engage in talks revolving around the subjects of traffic, transportation and urban renewal.

The entire meeting was conducted in English, though Ko said that he is still not accustomed to using the language even after spending time in the United States.

The attention of local media, however, was focused on Kramer's gift to Ko, a pocket watch from the House of Lords. As giving watches and clocks as a gift is traditionally a taboo in Chinese culture (the phrase "giving a clock" (送鐘) is read the same as "bidding farewell" to the deceased (送終) at a funeral), local media questioned the mayor on his thoughts regarding the appropriateness of the gift.

Ko jokingly responded that, as a doctor, he is unafraid of taboos, but he also has no idea what he would do with a watch. The mayor then joked that he is considering re-gifting the watch or selling it as "scrap metal."

In response to Ko's statement and media questions, Kramer released an apologetic statement through the British Trade & Cultural Office Taiwan, saying that something new is learned everyday. Kramer went on to say that she had no idea that watches have a negative connotation as a gift, as it is considered a very generous gift in England.

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