Taiwanese public vote for chaos … in word of the year poll

Sarah Zheng

The Taiwanese public have voted 2019 as the year of chaos.

Around 80,000 people took part in a newspaper poll to decide the character that best summed up the year, picking the winner out of a selection of 42 words chosen by academics and high-profile figures such as the filmmaker Ang Lee.

United Daily News, which has been running the contest for the past 12 years, reported that “chaos” got 10,323 votes, followed by “lies” with 6,819. “Worry”, “surprise” and “anxiety” also featured in the top 10.

Last year’s character of the year was “fan” or “turning over”, preceded by “unclear” in 2017, “suffering” in 2016 and “change” in 2015. “Chaos” is the first repeat winner, having also been selected in 2008.

Protests in Hong Kong may be one reason for the choice of word. Photo: Edmond So

Feng Chi-tai, chair of the CTBC Foundation for Arts and Culture which helped organise the contest, said “everyone should have the boldness not to allow the chaos to bring turmoil to the mind, and to have the intellect to bring order out of chaos”.

The newspaper said the choice of “chaos” reflected global developments, including the six months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, the US-China trade war and Taiwan’s strained relations with the Chinese mainland.

At home, hot button issues including same-sex marriage and education reforms have raised tensions ahead of January’s presidential and legislative elections.

Five weeks before the vote, polls have put President Tsai Ing-wen from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party ahead of her challengers, Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu from the opposition Kuomintang and James Soong Chu-yu, a former KMT politician and now chairman of the small opposition party People First Party.

Taiwanese director Ang Lee picked chaos as his word of the year. Photo: AP

Lee and Richard Lee Chia-Tung, an honorary professor at National Tsing Hua University, both nominated the word “chaos” for this year, with Lee writing in his supporting blurb that “very clearly, everything is stretched very tightly” and that he hoped “one year we will be able to reach ‘harmony’ as the character”.

The professor explained his choice by referencing the lack of answers from the government this year over the Puyuma Express derailment in 2018, which killed 18 and injured 267 in one of the deadliest accidents on the island in decades.

“The foreign ministry has also caused the strange congratulatory message incident,” he wrote, a reference to Taipei’s diplomatic faux pas when its representative office in Japan touted a fake National Day message from Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in October.

“This has made me continue to feel our country is really a little chaotic,” he said.

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