Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je after winning the mayoral election in Taipei on November 29, 2014. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Despite criticism for remarks that appeared to be tolerant of mainland China’s recent decision to issue residency cards to Taiwanese living and working there, recent opinion polls show that Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je  is still in the lead ahead of an upcoming mayoral election.

After China began issuing the residency cards, Taipei responded that it might consider imposing regulatory measures or restrictions on cardholders.

But Ko, who won the 2014 mayoral election with the vital backing from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), caused a stir by suggesting that the government could treat the Chinese residency cardholders the same way the island’s holders of US green cards were treated.

Some lawmakers have blasted Ko for the suggestion, calling him a “mole” for his increasingly pro-Beijing remarks over the years.

Earlier, Ko also said that Taiwan and China belonged to “one family,” and his decision to shrug off opposition and fly to Shanghai for a high-profile summit with senior mainland cadres last year was also seen by DPP bigwigs as a sign of betrayal.

Yet opinion polls show that Ko is still in good shape for keeping his job in the November election. And this week, he said he would never be led around by China.

A student leader who stormed into the island’s legislature to stop a trade deal with China back in 2015 has taken potshots at Ko, saying his handling of cross-Strait relations could create an opening for Beijing’s infiltration.

Ko’s election opponents have also said his “one family” rhetoric is just another fancy alternative to Beijing’s “one China” stance and that Ko is dancing to Beijing’s tune.

The DPP and the Kuomintang have also fielded candidates to contest for the top job in the island’s capital city. Former presidents Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou both served as mayor of Taipei.

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