Kaohsiung Mayor Visits New York

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu visits the High Line on March 18 to study sustainable development in NYC. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Chen Chu, the mayor of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, arrived in New York on March 18. As the first local government official from Taiwan to come to the U.S. since President Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act on March 16, Chen’s visit attracted broad attention, especially from Beijing. [Editor’s note: Taiwan and the U.S. have no diplomatic ties. But the Act allows Taiwan officials to visit the U.S. and meet their counterparts. Beijing, which insists Taiwan is part of China, strongly opposes the Act.]

Chen brushed off questions from the press regarding the rumor that she will be appointed the Presidential Office’s secretary-general of Taiwan. She said she is in New York as the mayor of her city and is here to learn about its experiences in order to make Kaohsiung a sustainable city.

Chen brought with her a delegation  of officials from the city’s agencies including the Public Works Bureau, the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, the Urban Development Bureau, the Secretariat, and the Bureau of Information. She said she was invited by The Center for Strategic and International Studies to participate in a program of the Washington D.C.-based think tank that invites progressive female leaders to speak on empowering women. She received the invitation eight months earlier.

In the speech she gave on March 20, entitled “My 4,000 days and 40 years: the Way of Democracy in Taiwan,” Chen shared her experience of being the first female mayor of Kaohsiung, and talked about the transformation of the city toward sustainability. She didn’t mention the Taiwan Travel Act.

The first stop Chen made in New York, accompanied by Lily Hsu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, was the High Line park. As Kaohsiung has been building its subway system and many on or above-ground railroads may soon be suspended, the High Line, which was built on an above-ground railroad, makes a great model for the city.

Chen said the new underground train system of Kaohsiung, which spans for 15.67 kilometers, is slated to open at the end of August. And afterwards, about 71.29 hectares of land above the underground system will be released. The city is trying to turn the land into a scenic park space.

Chen said her term as mayor is coming close to an end, and the visit to the U.S. was a rare opportunity. She hopes to learn as much as she can about the development of sustainable cities to help facilitate the transformation of Kaohsiung. She also plans to have a tour of the 311 system of New York City and share Kaohsiung’s experience of its own 1999 city hotline. On March 22, Chen will go to Baltimore to study the city’s Inner Harbor 2.0 plan. On March 24, she will visit the September 11 Memorial and place a wreath for the victims. She will then wrap up her visit and go back to Taiwan on March 25.

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