Introducing... Freddy Lim

Richard Swift

The Campaign Office of Freddy Lim

Talk about unlikely… Who would have imagined that a tattooed heavy-metal musician would break the stale stand-off in Taiwanese politics between the KMT, which pushes for reunification with China, and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is neither democratic nor progressive.

But in elections on 16 January, Lim and his New Power Party broke through, with six seats. The old Kuomintang-based KMT was routed in both legislative and executive elections; the new president is Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP, the first woman ever to hold the post.

New Power is trying to channel the voice of a younger generation of activists who most recently came to prominence in the Sunflower Movement, which challenged the highly unpopular KMT President Ma Ying-jeou’s unscrupulous manoeuvrings to move the country further into China’s autocratic orbit.

Lim made his name as lead vocalist with popular band Chthonic. Now 39, he has come a long way from his pro-unification student days to become a staunch defender of Taiwanese identity against the predations of an elitist mainland that suppressed the language and culture of his grandparents.

His move from heavy metal to politics came naturally. He explains that in contemporary Taiwan ‘politicians are the most distrusted profession’, while no-one distrusts musicians. So he tidied his wild black hair into a neat bun, hit the campaign trail and won a tightly fought race in the capital, Taipei. He hopes to eliminate the KMT, which he regards as an ‘undemocratic, pre-modern party’ that has dominated Taiwanese life for far too long.