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NATMA x Legislator Lin Ching-Yi

August 17, 2023


Reporting by Cheryl Wu, MD


This year, NATMA has chosen Dr Lin Ching-Yi, a legislative member in the Taiwanese Legislature representing the 2nd Taichung electoral constituency district, as well as an OB-GYN, for its 3rd recipient of the Distinguished Taiwan Physician Community Service Award. The first recipient was Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-Te, and second was current Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chi-Mai.


Visiting the ceremonial site with the abundant offerings for Zhong Yuan Holiday


I was given the opportunity to travel to Taichung to spend a day with Legislator Lin, and connect with her about her career, current work within Taichung district 2, and her views on the future of Taiwan. She’s a friend of Dr Alpha Lin, a urologist in Taichung, and a member of our 2G Taiwan Committee.

 

I boarded the High Speed Rail from Taipei Main Station, and arrived in Taichung within 50 minutes (the same trip would’ve taken more than two hours by car not accounting for traffic). I was picked up by Legislator Lin’s driver, who then expertly navigated us back to the main office and picked up the Legislator.  The agenda on the day includes community visits to local ceremonial sites for the annual 中元節 (traditionally celebrated in the 7th month of the lunar calendar) celebration and prayers, speaking to constituents about their concerns and helping to resolve them, attendance at a gala with local stakeholders, and finally, a meeting in Taipei. And that’s only from 1:30-6pm.


Legislator Lin speaking to a constituent and community leader during one of the many ceremonial site visits of the day



Legislator Lin officially started her political career in 2014, but had always been active during medical school at Sun Yat-Sen Medical School and residency. During her student days, she was an avid volunteer for local community organizations, worked frequently with local leaders, and learned advocacy from the ground up. After she became an OB-GYN attending at Chung Sun University Hospital (where we actually visited during the 2G trip in July), she continued to work with local women’s community groups (that are also politically active), even becoming a representative to attend the annual Commission for the Status of Women at the UN. 


A Taoist temple and one of the 5-6 sites we visited that day



In addition to her activism and volunteer work, Legislator Lin also took time out during her busy attending schedule at the hospital to volunteer and eventually lead medical missions to Tuvalu, Nepal, and Northern India. By the time the famous phone call from Minister Hsu came in 2014 nominating her to be the director of DPP’s Dept of Women’s Development, Dr Lin already had more than 10 years of community advocacy and political organizing experience under her belt. Legislator Lin joked that during the phone call, Minister Hsu said the biggest difference for her would be a huge salary drop, since she was already doing all of the work already. In January of 2022, Dr Lin was voted into Taichung’s 2nd electoral district, became the legislature representative, and now has 320-350,000 people in her district (of which, roughly 220,000 are her constituents). 


A map of Legislator Lin's district on the wall in her field office



At this point in the conversation, we arrived at the first religious site - it’s a large community space in front of a Taoist temple, replete with the familiar red tiles, curved rooftops and ample dragon motifs. The worship space is covered with colorful rainbow hued burlap, and lined with an insane amount of tropical fruit, dried goods, snacks, drinks, seasonings, and canned goods. The offerings are made to distant ancestors and the more recently deceased and respected community elders, as well as to the “hungry ghosts”. Such offerings represent the absolving of suffering and paying of respect to one’s deceased family members. This holiday is actually an interfaith one, having both spiritual and ancestral ritualistic significance in Taoism as well as Buddhism. Appropriately, Legislator Lin arrived at each location, lighting an incense, taking bows to the photos of deceased community leaders, and cheerfully greeting local community organizers. One can’t help but feel the significance of her connectedness to the people she serves, young or old, with us or long passed. 


Legislator Lin strikes a pose in front of the familiar doorway to a typical Taoist temple



After three such community worship site visits, we rode back to Legislator Lin’s office, where there was already a physician waiting for her. He was well past his prime, and came armed with stacks of paper in response to a recent letter he received from the National Insurance Administration. Similar to those of us who service the Medicare or Medicaid populations in the US, physicians in Taiwan also must follow well designated rules when administering healthcare to patients. Unfortunately, this particular physician has violated some rules (not billing for sick care on the same day as vaccine administration), and did not realize his repeated mistakes until many letters later. Legislator Lin felt for him, and told him that she would see what she could do. She helped him pen an appeal letter and asked him to come back another day with other paperwork. She subsequently put a call in to the president of the hospital at which she used to work (and whom the physician said he knew), and discovered this physician has HF-ASD (high functioning autism spectrum disorder). We talked about different ways of communications (at one point during the meeting, it seemed as though communication was breaking down), and the idea of inclusivity in all levels of work and education. 


The banner above Legislator Lin's office in Long Jing



The next meeting Legislator Lin took was with the local fishery group, who presented water routes with conflicts between commercial and local fishing. Legislator Lin quickly understood the issue, as she had had a conversation with the local commission about the same thing a month prior. She delegated a few tasks to her deputy, and quickly decided on holding a meeting about this very issue. This was a much smoother meeting, as the ask was clear and Legislator Lin was well briefed about the issue - even though there were more than 10 people present. Hands were shook, and Dr Lin even took a minute to sip from a hot cup of oolong tea brought by one of her staffers. 


After the two local constituents meetings, we were off again. We briskly walked to the now familiar SUV, and the driver executed amazing turns through tiny local roads and on the highway. It was time to visit two more religious sites, as their worshipping times started in the mid afternoon. During our car ride, Legislator Lin and I got to talking about NATMA and the future of Taiwan. Being a strong proponent within the progressive Green Party (aka Progressive Democratic Party), she explained that the other party, the Blue Party, tend to be one issue voters (very similar to the US; for example, the recently overturned Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court). The stronghold of the party is to stay the course and conserve the Way Things Are. However, progressive voters do tend to be more opinionated, and will not vote for leaders with whom they have a few points they do not agree. Of course, in a critical thinking environment, we welcome a diversity in thinking and opinions; however, in a political environment, it becomes harder to unify a group of people with many opinions. Of course Legislator Lin is pro-democracy, but she cites some of the side effects as challenges to surmount. 


The other thing we discussed is the future of Taiwan, and the self identity of the Taiwanese people. Legislator Lin realized that Taichung, being a major port city with easily accessible water routes, may be vulnerable to attacks. To that end, one of the items on her agenda for the oncoming year is district-wide disaster preparedness and crisis management training. Legislator Lin also stated that the Taiwanese people (after decades, if not centuries, of political unrest, colonialism, martial law, and the current geopolitical uncertainties) often don’t realize their own accomplishments at home. That even under such intensity, Taiwan has built a thriving democracy, encouraged active civic engagement, fostered a robust press (with 11 independent news organizations for an island of mere 23 million people!), and produced wonderful social nets such as social security and universal healthcare. Legislator Lin hopes for more stories to come home to Taiwan (I think especially those from the west, or from the US), so our people can sense that hey, things are pretty good here. 



Legislator Lin signing her name at the ceremonial site



At this point, we had visited two more worship sites, Dr Lin had paid respect to several late community organizers, and we are now on our way to a late afternoon gala/meeting with local stakeholders. We checked into a fancy hotel’s enormous ballroom (yes, with an enormous central crystal chandelier), which already has more than 150 people in attendance. Legislator Lin walks directly up to the front of the ballroom, where a seat has been reserved for her at the VIP/speaker section. After several rounds of local CEOs and community leaders, as well as other district leaders’ speeches, Legislator Lin was called to speak. She addressed the constituents and updated what her office has been working on. Unfortunately, all of this was delivered in Taiwanese, and my command of the dialect is weak at best (I only spent 5.5 years during my childhood in Taiwan - and that was more than 30 years ago!). But I was impressed with the precise timing of her appearance and her spot on the roster - it really took a whole team of arrangement to make it happen! Soon after she was done with her speech, legislator Lin took a bow and left the ballroom as the meeting/gala carried on with all the other VIPs in attendance.


The banquet with local stakeholders



At this point, Dr Lin had to go to Taipei for an evening meeting at the legislature. Her driver dropped us off at the high speed rail stop, and I suddenly realized, we didn’t take a photo! As I was representing NATMA, I realized that we probably needed a photo representation of this prelude for her trip to California next month to receive the award in person at our annual national meeting. So we took a photo right in front of the high speed rail, another symbol of public infrastructure that came as a result of public service. 



Til next time!! 

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