The Taiwanese government has appointed a “civic hacker” – who was involved in civil open governance platforms and the Sunflower Movement – as an executive councillor specifically for digital policies. She will be the youngest executive councillor and also the first transgender official in the Taiwanese government.

Audrey Tang, 35, confirmed the appointment on Thursday, after reports of the appointment were published. A programmer, Tang dropped out of high school when she was 14 as she was unable to adapt to student life. She became an entrepreneur in technology and will assume office on October 1 after completing a consultant contract with tech giant Apple.

“After entering the Executive Yuan, I expect myself to be a ‘civil servant of civil servants’, that I will help the civil service to solve problems using digital technology and systems, to strengthen the communication and cooperation between government departments and civil technology communities,” she said.

Audrey Tang
Audrey Tang. Photo: Screenshot.

“My role is not to be ‘someone inside’ for some communities, or for promoting policies on the internet, but to be a channel for more wisdom and abilities to combine,” she added.

When Tang was 33, she announced she would be retiring from business and moving on to serve the public sector.

Describing herself as a “conservative anarchist,” Tang said she has been directing her efforts over the past few years towards g0v community, which advocates for government information transparency and civic participation. She is also involved in the vTaiwan platform, which is used to discuss policies online.

For instance, the amendment bill on the company law of Taiwan passed in the legislature last year was based on a draft formed by discussions on the vTaiwan platform, Tang said.

Student protesters occupy Taiwanese legislature during Sunflower Movement
Student protesters occupy Taiwanese legislature during Sunflower Movement. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

During the Sunflower Movement – a major student movement opposing a trade pact between Taiwan and mainland China being rushed into legislation – Tang was responsible for creating an online video and text live stream inside and outside the occupied legislature building, reported Taiwan’s Public Television Service.

Before joining the government, she was a member of the consultation committee on open data, and a committee on the development of a 12-year basic education curriculum of the Taiwanese government.

She said she also worked with the French government authorities, the Paris government and the Madrid government on digital policies.

After she confirmed the appointment, she opened an online page to answer questions from the public and the media.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.