Ma Yingjeou’s Cataract Surgery, Taiwanese Netizen Reactions

President Ma Yingjeou goes under the knife for cataract surgery. Photo courtesy Apple Daily.
President Ma Yingjeou goes under the knife for cataract surgery. Photo courtesy Apple Daily.

Last week, Taiwan President Ma Yingjeou underwent surgery for cataracts. News of the event went relatively unnoticed, due to the surgery already having been successfully completed by the time the story broke. Taiwan netizens were relatively unsympathetic to the President’s cataract condition, claiming his cataract problem is the reason why he is dull-witted and prone to jumble his words in public speeches. The connection between a cataract problem and being called dull-witted and idiotic may not be immediately obvious, but stems from the Mandarin Chinese word for cataracts (白內障) being relatively similar to the Taiwanese word for idiot (白目).

Currently, Ma Yingjeou’s approval rating stands at about 9 to 11%, with 2 years still left in his second presidential term.

From Apple Daily Taiwan:

Ma Yingjeou Returns to Taiwan University Hospital to Undergo Surgery for Chronic Cataract Problem

Ma Yingjeou yesterday went to National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) for his annual health check, with NTUH reporting this afternoon that his health condition was normal. But as it is understood, ophthalmologists at NTUH suggested that President Ma opt to undergo surgery to correct the president’s nagging cataract problem. Yesterday evening, Ma Yingjeou agreed and returned to NTUH for the surgery, and has already returned home to recuperate.

When the president’s office was confronted with questions about the surgery, they indicated that information related to President Ma’s current health is provided by NTUH. However, it has been pointed out, that President Ma will be visiting Central and South America two weeks from now, where the local sun condition is glaringly strong, which has the potential to damage his vision a second time. It was because Ma coincidentally did not have a public itinerary planned today, that he decided to accept the doctor’s advice to undergo treatment.

However, after President Ma underwent his health check at NTUH, members of the media had asked Chang Hang, the convener of the President’s medical team, about the President Ma’s cataract problem and what the results of this health check, to which Zhang replied at the time that his cataract problem had not deteriorated.

Comments from Apple Daily’s Facebook Feed:

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Shrimpo Shao

I’m so concerned for President Ma, and hope he can resign to go home to recuperate.

赤風喬 (in response to Shrimpo Shao)

Please, go home and get educated for 2-3 years, and Taiwan will be able to fly high against the wind. [Note: Two things. First, this commenter changed 休養 to 修養, both pronounced xiu yang, but meaning “recover/recuperate” and “educate/self-cultivation” respectively. Second, the commenter is also poking fun at one of Ma Yingjeou’s famous slip-ups, mispronouncing the phrase 逆風高飛 as 逆轟高灰, which lead to a number of KUSO‘s (the Taiwanese term for spoof cartoon) being posted online.]

Arthur Lee (in response to Shrimpo Shao)

Best if the vice-president takes a break too.

Ti Yu Chuang (in response to Shrimpo Shao)

Taiwan hasn’t yet been sold out, so how can he go home?

Jasper Wu

No wonder he doesn’t see the kind of company he keeps.

Jerry Tsai

I hope Mr. Ma’s cataract problem doesn’t drag on for too long, because what he really needs to get treated is his mental retardation.


No wonder he’s such an idiot.


He rubbed his own eyes, didn’t he? [This is probably in reference to the “Ma Yingjeou handshake curse”. There are numerous jokes about athletes losing critical matches because they had recently shaken hands with Ma.]


To the person holding the knife during the surgery, please save Taiwan!


This is really ludicrous.
Cataracts has nothing to do with governing a country.
Even if the president has done a bad job,
you can’t use someone’s illness to make fun of them!
Regardless of whether you’re blue or green [pro-KMT or pro-DPP],
if you had a problem with cataracts today,
would you like people to call you a blind idiot?
No wonder Taiwan has turned out the way it has,
not because of an incompetent president,
but because of a group of feeble citizens.
This is what my 14-year-old,
cataract-free eyes

BJ Yang

Let’s be a little more courteous, shall we? How dare we say Mainlanders are uncivilized when we leave distasteful messages like these?
What makes you guys any better? Where did all your education go?

Hanna Chen

Even if you don’t like him, and even if he isn’t doing a good job,
even if he hasn’t made praiseworthy accomplishments, he has still put in hard work.
If today it was someone close to you being cursed to drop dead, would you be happy? Would you not be hurt by it?
If today something bad really happens to him, would you not have an uneasy conscience?
So this is the quality of character and upbringing of Taiwanese people…

Rise Yang

Pro-Blue [KMT supporters] love to talk about A-Bian [Chen Shuibian, former Taiwanese president] faking his own illness. Will making fun of Ma a little kill anyone?


For making the country the way it is now, making fun of him is merely appropriate.

Pomme Liao

A-Bian = “He should rot in prison until he’s dead.” Dogshit Ma = “Let’s leave more civil remarks” *snicker*


Are they using taxpayers’ money for this operation again…?

Sing-Kuei Liang

Rest for two years and fully recuperate your health. We won’t blame you.

  • Don’t Believe the Hype

    I thought Ma was pro-unification?

    • Alex Dương

      He is. The “catch” is that pro-unification in the eyes of the KMT / pan-blue coalition means ROC reunification of mainland China and Taiwan. The prospects for that happening are, sadly, quite low, so in practice, the KMT (and these days, the DPP too) just push for the status quo. Really, only the TSU still actively pursues the “traditional” goals of Taiwanese independence.

      • don mario

        the status quo also means they should move towards unification.. each side has created their own meaning of status quo, its cute.

        • Alex Dương

          No, the status quo means that for political reasons, the PRC and ROC each claim to be “the” one and only China; but in reality, each exists and governs separately.

          • don mario

            it means exactly what you said.. and that they need to move towards eventual unification. i’m not shitting you, that is how they define it. it makes sense, otherwise they would lose too much face.

          • Alex Dương

            That might be the pan-blue coalition’s view of the status quo (e.g. something extra that they push for on top of the baseline).

          • don mario

            its the ccp’s aswell. dude, just look it up..

            do you really think a country with nearly 2000 missiles pointed at the other one is just gonna agree to an indefiniate status quo that actually means a true status quo? doesn’t make sense.

          • Alex Dương

            My point is that this is not the view of the pan-green coalition. If you talk about Taiwan’s “side,” you must include both the views of pan-blue and pan-green. The only thing that all three share is what I said: for political reasons, the PRC and ROC each claim to be “the” one and only China; but in reality, each exists and governs separately.

            CCP adds to this by saying PRC unification must happen “eventually.” Pan-blue adds to this by saying ROC unification must happen “eventually.” Pan-green is interested in neither.

          • don mario

            not really related, dpp were not a part of the status quo agreement.

          • Alex Dương

            Hold on, are you defining status quo explicitly as the 1992 Consensus?

          • Kai

            I don’t think pan-blue is even ROC reunification. It’s more like reunification “under acceptable terms or environment/situation”. It’s a position more about what minimum requisites must be met, as opposed to what government should succeed. That’s the way I’ve always understood it.

          • Aaron Wytze

            Yeah, Kai’s right here. I think it would be political suicide for the KMT to spell out “we’re for eventual reunification as the ROC” in such frank terms during an election.

          • Kai

            Not really that, but also political suicide with the PRC. As a practical matter, no one is under any delusion that the ROC government could govern the mainland after all these years. What the KMT and pan-blue coalition generally believe is that “eventual” reunification should be kept open as a choice, premised upon an integration of Taiwan into China on terms acceptable to the people of Taiwan. The ROC government would cease to exist but perhaps merge into a new “Chinese” government that also no longer resembles the current CCP government.

            The reason the CCP-led PRC prefers and engages with the KMT is because the KMT is not ideologically opposed to eventual reunification or greater cooperation and mutual benefit with the mainland.

            The CCP-led PRC wants reunification, perhaps as soon as peacefully possible. For them, time is on their side. As the PRC grows and develops, they believe there will be MORE reasons that will make the people in Taiwan amenable to reunifying into a “whole” China.

            The KMT is ideologically and pragmatically for the status-quo (of there being Two Chinas or even one country, two systems, still split from civil war), open to eventual reunification on terms acceptable to the people of Taiwan, to its constituency. It is pro-improving cross-strait relations, believing the political split that must be maintained for now in the interests of the people in Taiwan should not get in the way of economic cooperation and mutual benefit.

            The DPP is more stereotypically pro-independence, sometimes so in a populist way, and believes Taiwan can be fine as a formal separate independent soverign nation (as it already is de facto), perhaps without regard to how it might affect its economic interests tied to the mainland.

          • don mario

            “no one is under any delusion that the ROC government could govern the mainland after all these years. What the KMT and pan-blue coalition generally believe is that “eventual” reunification should be kept open as a choice, premised upon an integration of Taiwan into China on terms acceptable to the people of Taiwan.”

            that is just as delusional as option A.

          • Kai

            I stated a fact of what the pan-blues hope for, you stated a prejudice of what you think is possible with the PRC.

          • Alex Dương

            Hmm, I see your point. As I understand it, the major issue is that the Taiwanese will not reunify if the mainland is not democratic, full stop. I guess if the PRC were to democratize, pan-blue would not be completely against PRC unification.

          • don mario

            i wouldn’t say full stop. if ma or some other people had their way they would unify with china as it is, no doubt about it. luckily they, for the mean time they are not going to get their own way.

          • Alex Dương

            Oh come on, that is just pan-green propaganda akin to how Republicans / Democrats trash each other. A majority of Taiwanese people voted for Ma to be their President twice; are you saying that a majority of Taiwanese want to unify with mainland China as it is?

          • Kai

            I really want to say I think Taiwanese people may even accept something short of democracy if the economic motivation is strong enough, but I’ll go with them not accepting reunification without a democratic PRC. Frankly though, even a democratic PRC poses a major threat to Taiwanese self-interests. What matters more is not just democracy but ideally also economic and lifestyle parity. Just as South Koreans fear North Koreans taxing their lifestyle and bringing down their current standard of living with reunification, same with Taiwanese.

            Sure, if the PRC democratizes, it’d be abandoning aspects of what it was founded for. Then again, it already has, right? The CCP won’t willingly give up its monopoly on power. They will only do so because they are forced to. The question is if being part of a democratic system is a level of survival they are willing to accept peacefully.

            Almost zero chance of mainland China reunifying wholesale into an intact ROC government. It would necessarily be a new government and thus neither PRC or ROC. If lucky, maybe the ROC name will be adopted, but I mean, it’s gonna be a whole new bureaucracy.

          • Angie Mac

            First off, let me say, as someone who really only knew the bare bones of the Taiwan situation, I have to thank you and Alex (and Don) for having a really interesting and informative debate/discussion.

            I’m interested in your comment that the PRC has abandoned certain aspects of what it was founded. Obviously, a market driven economy would be one of (and certainly the largest of)those aspects. Could you expand on that comment?

            I’m just interested in your point of view, and possibly have a follow up question to your view on this.

          • Kai

            We (I’m sure) appreciate your appreciation!

            I don’t know how to answer your question more effectively than simply pointing you to reference articles about Communism, Socialism, even Marxism and Maoism and having you compare what the ideologies advocated and what policies are currently in effect in modern China.

            Maybe if you asked me a more specific question, I can give you some thoughts. Cheers.

          • Alex Dương

            I agree that economic and lifestyle parity matter too. Regarding the PRC and its founding aspects, I agree that it has largely abandoned Communist economics since 1978. But it retains the one-party dictatorship. So the way I see it, if it drops that, then jeez, why keep the symbols and style of the PRC if the substance has been purged? There’s just so much historical baggage associated with the symbols that to me, there is no point to keep them if the underlying substance is gone.

            I agree that a new bureaucracy must be in place for a hypothetical, democratic, reunified China. A bureaucracy that has evolved to meet the needs of a country of 23 million people cannot be expected to automatically work for a country of 1.3+ billion people. In that sense, yes, the ROC as is cannot run mainland China.

          • Kai

            Hah, I don’t think one-party dictatorship was really a nostalgic selling point of the Communist Party in the first place. The public will likely be fine with losing that bit of “underlying substance”. What should be kept and carried over ought to be some of the ideals that WERE part of Communist ideology (as they were of other ideologies too).

          • Dr Sun

            I don’t know anything really about the political or bureaucratic workings in Taiwan, but the system in the PRC currently being practiced by the CPC is the same one that was used by the KMT before them and by pretty much every emperor before the Republic. That of “guan Xi”, and corrupt government Officers (mandarins/ party officials) at all levels. I not sure that will ever change and I hope to god thats not the kind of unification the people of Taiwan want.

          • Alex Dương

            the system in the PRC currently being practiced by the CPC is the same one that was used by the KMT before them and by pretty much every emperor before the Republic.

            Yes, exactly.

            I not sure that will ever change

            For sure it won’t be easy, but I don’t think it is impossible. Take a look at Chiang Ching-kuo. He was born and raised in mainland China. He grew up during the warlord era. As an adult, he lived under his father’s dictatorship. When his father died, he became a dictator himself. He could have continued this practice, but he did not. Right before he died, he made changes that ushered in Taiwan’s democratization.

      • Kai

        He is? I’m not super familiar with Ma’s stance on many things but I never thought he was pro-unification, much less ROC reunificaiton. I only thought he was pro-status-quo in keeping the issue of eventual reunification open, without specifying ROC reunification of the mainland.

        • Alex Dương

          This is a reprint of an editorial, so take it with a grain of salt:

          During President Ma’s interview, he earnestly addressed the question of why the public on Taiwan doesn’t want reunification…In the past, the public on Taiwan considered the Mainland too impoverished and too restrictive. Now Mainland reforms and opening-up have transformed it into an economic powerhouse. Yet many people on Taiwan still refuse to reunify. Why? Ma Ying-jeou said, “We (people on Taiwan and people on the Mainland) don’t even know each other that well.”

          As he explained, opening cross-Strait exchanges will help
          promote Mainland China’s economic freedom, and even political freedom. This is an historic opportunity. “I want to create a situation where the two sides could…see which system is better for the Chinese culture, for the Chinese people.”

          I agree that Ma is “pro-status-quo in keeping the issue of eventual reunification open.” But it seems implied to me that when he says “which system is better for the Chinese
          culture, for the Chinese people,” he is talking about Taiwan’s system.

          • Kai

            I see where you read ROC reunification into that although I think that’s reading too much into it. To me, he is talking more about a more “liberal” system, in economic, social, and political policies and governance. He’s not saying “system” and meaning the “ROC government”.

            This thinking is very pan-blue, very modern KMT, as I understand it. He sees more cross-strait relations as an opportunity for mainland Chinese to get more exposure to Taiwan, to life in Taiwan, to how things are done in Taiwan, because he believes things are better in Taiwan. Exposure to what is better will therefore prompt mainland Chinese to demand more and thus spur reforms domestically. If mainland China reforms enough, the idea of reunification will become more amenable to the people in Taiwan.

          • Alex Dương

            It’s more than nuanced than I thought, but that’s what makes the issue interesting. Thanks, Kai.

          • Brian227

            His oath of office on taking up the Presidency was to the Constitution of the Republic of China

            “I do solemnly and sincerely swear before the people of the whole country that I will observe the Constitution, faithfully perform my duties, promote the welfare of the people, safeguard the security of the State, and will in no way betray the people’s trust. Should I break my oath, I shall be willing to submit myself to severe punishment by the State. This is my solemn oath.”

            “…the people of the whole country…”

            “…the Constitution.”

            …the people…”

            “…the State…”

            “…the people’s trust…”

            It would be interesting to see how the DPP would react should the President of the Republic of China ever fail to uphold this oath. The ideological knots they’d have to tie themselves in to justify impeachment procedures would be delicious to watch.

          • Alex Dương

            My feeling is that these days, the DPP seems to have significantly moderated its stance. It doesn’t appear to push for changing the name of the country anymore, and it no longer claims that the ROC is an illegitimate, occupying, “foreign” government. In a span of four years, the DPP’s Presidential candidates went from saying “I am running for the Presidency of the State of Taiwan” (Frank Hsieh) to “The ROC is Taiwan” (Tsai Ing-wen).

          • Brian227

            They’ve managed to outsource the most pro-independence fruitbattery to the TSU. What they haven’t yet done (although I’ve hopes for Tsai’s second attempt) is come up with a way of interacting with the PRC as opposed to an Ian Paisley-esque “NO!!! NEVER! NEVER!” denial that any was necessary.

            I hope under her leadership they can shake off that Hoklo Nationalist taint, too. Taiwan needs an effective opposition and a party which alienates large swathes of the population won’t cut the mustard.

        • Insomnicide

          Didn’t we have an article a while ago where president Ma said “mainland is still ours”?

          • Alex Dương

            Yeah, but that’s purely for political reasons. It’s a bit weird, but the way Beijing sees it, if Taiwan won’t accept “one country, two systems,” then the next best thing is for them to say “oh yes, we’re all a part of one country: the ROC.” This is the essence of the so-called 1992 Consensus: one China, two interpretations.

  • Why didn’t he go to a Chinese trained and certified eye surgeon in the mainland?…he deserved the best…not some unskilled Taiwanese hack

    • LaoShu

      maybe a good bukkake shower would have healed him ?

  • wrle

    all taiwanese or chaiwanese need a brain surgery. period.

  • Brian227

    “Mr. Ma, 61, of the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, won with
    51.6 of the vote. Ms. Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party, drew
    45.6 percent. A third candidate, James Soong
    of the People First Party, who had been expected to siphon off as much a
    tenth of the electorate from Mr. Ma, received 2.8 percent, according to
    the Central Election Commission. Turnout was more than 74 percent.”

    That’s an awful lot of Taiwanese who had no particular gripe against this explicitly-stated policy platform two years ago. An overall majority, in fact.

    • ElectricTurtle

      I’ll tell you, if Dr. Tsai had been a man with the same platform and credentials, those numbers would be reversed. At the time of the election President Ma was not so popular, but there were many, which is to say as much as 5% easily, who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a woman.

      • 白色纯棉小裤裤

        I’ll tell you, if Dr. Tsai had been a man with the same platform and credentials, those numbers would be reversed.

        Interesting…so election is not about who is the best, but is about who has the most resources.

        At the time of the election President Ma was not so popular, but there were many, which is to say as much as 5% easily, who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a woman.

        You sound like women have no right to vote.. If women also have the right to vote…then as much as 5% women can easily be biased toward the woman.

        • ElectricTurtle

          Many women thought she was too “cold” or whatever. Either way, there were many people who didn’t vote for her for superficial reasons.

          • Kai

            It’s fair for you to introduce doubt, but it’s also fair to say many didn’t vote for her for solid reasons as well. Likewise, it’s fair to say many people voted for Ma for superficial reasons as well, or didn’t vote for him for superficial reasons. Finally, it’s also fair to say this is how democracy works, where superficial reasons are part of a voting electorate and that’s what we’ve all socially contracted into accepting.

          • Brian227

            I would say that opposing Ma because he’s not charismatic counts as equally superficial.

            Of course, once we’ve danced around the issue of who doesn’t like which candidate and why, we still have the possibilty that a majority of Taiwanese voters when faced with a choice between a candidate who promised closer economic ties with the Mainland and one who promised… well, puppydogs and rainbows from what I saw of the DPP campaign.. understood their own best interests perfectly well and voted accordingly.

            As the 2012 election is the last time the issue of cross-straits relations was put to the electorate as a whole, I’m going to take it as the only reliable indication of genuine popular sentiment.

      • mr.wiener

        I believe Ma ying jo’s wife helped him win the last election. He isn’t much of a people person.

        • Brian227

          In many respects, I envy Taiwan for having a political leader who isn’t good at pressing the flesh. We’ve had decades of the buggers here in Blighty and it’s brought us nothing but trouble.

          It’d be a nice change to have someone who just shut up and got on with things instead of playing to today’s loudest gallery.

      • Aaron Wytze

        There seems to be a bit of a consensus that the reason why Tsai Ingwen did not win was because of her reluctance to endorse the 1992 consensus. She was leading in popular opinion polls for months before the election in Jan ’12. If she does endorse the 1992 consensus before ’16 election, she has an excellent shot at winning.

      • Aaron Wytze

        Also Tsai being a woman was a non-issue in the ’12 presidential campaign. Most people view Tsai Ingwen as the “male version” of Ma Yingjeou. Yes, that’s right. More manly than Ma.

        • ElectricTurtle

          To say it wasn’t an issue at all I think is to be naive about a society that has never elected a female executive and generally has ended up resenting any that come close (some for valid reasons… e.g. Annette Lu was a corrupt person).

          • Aaron Wytze

            I’m not saying it was a non-issue to be a smarty pants, Tsai’s loss to Ma because of her gender was not cited by any academic or news sources I’ve seen. I recommend this excellent analysis by the European Unions council of foreign relations for a concrete rundown on how Ma won and Tsai lost.


            Also, I gotta plug my own analysis I wrote for the election. I was funded by the University of Toronto’s Asian Institute to observe and report on the elections for 8 days. Our research team also was curious about what effect Tsai’s gender would have on the electorate. No one we talked to was terribly concerned about her gender with most people citing her shaky mainland China policy and her unwillingness to support the ’92 consensus as the reason for her loss. Our team’s analysis is below:


          • ElectricTurtle

            Interesting and encouraging… I can’t locate anything contrary, though I’d as soon blame my monoglotism for that as anything else. Rather hard to find Taiwanese sociological poll/survey data without any meaningful command of written Chinese. So I’ll accept the matter as marginal until I can find hard evidence to back up my hunch.

          • David

            Noting wrong with showing your own analysis. I will look through it (when it comes to politics in Asia my own understanding/knowledge of Taiwan is very limited) to get an informed view of it. Heck, I might as well look through both. Thanks for the work.

        • Kai


          Ma never struck me as charismatic. He seems rather aloof to be honest. That said, anecdotally, a lot of women MAY HAVE voted for him simply because he’s “handsome” (not to me but I’ll respect their subjective tastes).

    • Aaron Wytze

      I agree. One of the most frustrating thing about talking about the CSSTA agreement and about Ma’s policies towards the mainland in general is the lack of responsibility some Taiwanese voters take in their support for Ma. ECFA and the CSSTA are becoming both relatively despised in Taiwan. But the same people that despise more direct trade links with China are also the same people who voted for Ma… Twice.

      • Brian227

        Neither the KMT grassroots nor the DPP are backing away from the pacts, though. They’re both fairly sophisticated political machines and I can’t see them committing electoral suicide by pressing a policy they knew was “relatively despised.”

        I’m prepared to bet that vocal opposition to the agreements becomes less pronounced when people actually enter the voting booth than when they’re sharing a street an emotional crowd. We’ll know if I’m right in 2016.

  • alice.

    “Claiming his cataract problem is the reason why he is dull-witted and prone to jumble his words in public speeches.”

    Ouch. That burns

  • Vernon Alarcon Jr.

    “You hypocrites, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”