Flamed by election fever
A K-pop teen idol, a tattooed death metal singer and a veteran Mandopop crooner were the unsuspecting scene-stealers of last week's Taiwanese elections, where Ms Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan's first female president. We look at these personalities
CHOU TZUYU: THE LIGHTNING ROD
The 16-year-old Taiwanese member of rookie K-pop girl group Twice probably never thought that something as innocuous as waving a Taiwanese flag on a Korean TV variety show would spiral into a national crisis.
Ridiculous as it might sound, it did - and turned the singer-dancer into what The Wall Street Journal called "the unexpected lightning rod" of Taiwan's elections overnight.
Earlier this month, outspoken pro-China singer Huang An, who had already been reporting pro-independent Taiwanese entertainers to mainland Chinese authorities, labelled Tzuyu's actions as a political act.
Huang's reasoning? Taiwan is a self-ruled island, not a country. And thus, there is no national flag in the legal sense.
Following Huang's expose, Chinese television station Anhui TV swiftly banned Tzuyu from performing on its Spring Festival programme.
LG Uplus, one of South Korea's telecoms operators, halted online advertisements of Huawei Y6 smartphones starring Tzuyu.
Shares of JYP Entertainment - Twice's management company - plunged.
Perhaps in a bid to appease the lucrative Chinese market, JYP head honcho Park Jin Young issued an apology, stressing that its artist was not promoting Taiwan's independence from China. JYP added that all of Twice's activities in China would be suspended until the misunderstanding was cleared.
JYP also uploaded an apology video last Friday - the night before Taiwanese went to the polls - by Tzuyu herself.
Looking slightly shaken but wearing a blank expression, she bowed twice and read from a statement: "There is only one China. The two sides of the strait are part of one whole. I am proud to be a Chinese person."
On social media platforms such as Twitter and Reddit, Twice fans and Taiwanese netizens - including many young Taiwanese who were originally apathetic about political issues - were enraged, expressing disgust at what they clearly viewed as a "public humiliation".Many felt she had no reason to apologise.
Hashtags #StayStrongTzuyu and #StandByYu began trending online.
Some said the poor girl was a mere "chess piece" in the political rivalry between China and Taiwan, while others even likened her apology video to images we see "when ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) kidnaps foreigners and makes them read a confession".
Chinese netizens felt her apology was "not genuine", with some sarcastically remarking that she was "kneeling down to renminbi".
According to political analysts, the flag row likely swayed swing votes to Ms Tsai Ing-wen as fence-sitters viewed Tzuyu's apology as a case of China bullying a young girl using political and commercial pressure.
Ms Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party eventually won by a landslide victory against the incumbent, China-friendly Kuomintang party.
Meanwhile, Tzuyu, like a typical teenager, seems to have put the whole incident behind her.
On Tuesday, at the filming of a Korean TV variety show in Seoul, she smiled brightly for cameras and presented a handwritten note to her fans: "This is maknae (Korean for youngest member) Tzuyu. Thank you for coming and cheering for us. I know you guys are nervous too, but I hope you guys keep cheering us on!"
NEW ON THE SCENE
Tzuyu is the only Taiwanese in the nine-member Twice, which comprises Koreans and Japanese. They debuted in October last year after winning reality K-pop survival show Sixteen.
And now that the dust has settled on the incident, things are looking up for her.
China's state-owned CCTV has since aired a programme featuring Twice, an indication that the ban on her appearances may have been lifted.
Together with Hyeri of Girl's Day and Seolhyun of AOA, Tzuyu is now one of the top three female idols among South Korean youth, reported Yonhap News Agency.
FROM THE STAGE TO THE STREETS
FREDDY LIM: THE MAN OF THE PEOPLE
In their day job, 40-year-old singer Freddy Lim and his bassist wife Doris Yeh, 38, pound out loud, blistering tunes with their death metal band Chthonic.
He sports long hair, sleeve tattoos, dark eyeliner, and sometimes even face paint, while sexy Yeh often shows off her figure with cleavage-baring outfits and nude magazine covers.
However, in the weeks leading up to Lim's victory at the elections, the power couple traded their flamboyant image for yellow jackets and sashes - yellow being the colour of his pro-independent New Power Party.
Wearing little or no make-up, they campaigned on the streets, mingling freely with Taipei residents and visiting markets and posing for photographs with food stall owners.
Yeh, especially, looked drastically different with her bookish spectacles.
Naturally, Lim's outlandish on-stage appearance became a target for his political rival, who called on voters not to let a candidate with "hair that is longer than a woman's" into the legislature.
But the couple's on-the-ground strategy worked.
Lim won a parliamentary seat in Taipei.
He has also been interviewed by prominent Western media, including CNN, BBC and The Guardian.
According to The Guardian, while it may be his first foray into politics, he is an old hand when it comes to speaking up for the common man. Aside from fronting Chthonic, he worked for several years as a human rights campaigner and was chairman of Taiwan's Amnesty International.
"If I entered Parliament, the most important thing (that I'd like to change) would be the distrust in politics," he told CNN before polling day.
"I hope Taiwanese people can appreciate more of the precious freedom, democracy and independence we have today.
"Even a free society like Hong Kong has become so miserable, thanks to the Chinese government's involvement."
IS HE TAIWAN'S MOST-HATED MAN?
HUANG AN: THE WITCH-HUNTER
At the peak of his music career, veteran singer Huang An was best known for his karaoke-friendly Mandarin ballad, New Butterfly Lovers' Dream, a chart-topper in 1993.
Today, the 53-year-old grandfather of one, who resides primarily in Beijing, has become the most hated man in Taiwan after the election, thanks to his self-appointed "witch-hunting" of pro-independence Taiwanese and Hong Kong celebrities.
A staunch advocate of Beijing's "One China" policy, Huang has become a polarising figure on Chinese social networking site Sina Weibo with his frequent boasts of tip-offs to Chinese authorities about pro-independence entertainers like Crowd Lu, Wong Hei and NONO.
He claims his criticism of Taiwanese separatism stems from his love for his birth island. One frequently circulated photo on social media shows him holding a huge sign with the words: "I don't oppose Taiwan, I oppose Taiwanese independence."
Many netizens respected his political views, but felt he crossed the line when he "reported" on K-pop singer Chou Tzuyu for waving the Taiwan flag on South Korean TV - a bad move on his part as it was easily interpreted as him "bullying" someone much younger.
Things escalated quickly from there, with Huang's actions backfiring.
His music was banned from several Taiwanese broadcasting corporations. A Taiwanese karaoke chain even announced it would permanently remove his songs from its catalogue.
For unknown reasons, Huang has been lying low since the elections and has deleted all his Sina Weibo posts, including one where he said he would hold a press conference on Feb 3 to "explain the entire Chou Tzuyu incident" and "return justice" to himself.