Taiwanese parliamentarians have debated changing legal limits on name changes, after some of the hundreds of people who legally altered their name to “Salmon” in return for free sushi reportedly became stuck with it.
In March 2021 restaurant chain Sushiro ran a promotion offering free all-you-can-eat sushi for a whole table to anyone with the Chinese characters for salmon, “gui yu”, in their name. In what was later dubbed “Salmon chaos”, 331 people took part, paying a nominal administration fee to legally call themselves names including “Salmon Dream” and “Dancing Salmon”.
At the time the government was critical of the promotion, asking people to be “rational” and complaining that the stunt created pointless extra work for Taiwan’s paperwork-heavy bureaucracy.
Some participants built social media followings off the international media attention, while others ran small businesses taking friends to the restaurant for a fee. Once the two-day promotion ended, most returned to their normal names, but more than one year on some have hit a roadblock – the government only allows people to change their names three times.
On Thursday legislators in Taiwan’s national parliament debated proposed amendments to the names ordinance, with members from both the government and opposition parties calling for changes to help those stuck as Salmons, or to prevent another “salmon chaos”.
“After the salmon chaos incident some people had already changed their name three times and now have no way to change them back,” said New Power Party legislator, Chiu Hsien-chih, suggesting other measures including fee changes and cooling-off periods.
Other legislators, from both the governing Democratic Progress Party (DPP) and main opposition Kuomintang, called for it to be made more difficult.
“Our trust in civic rationality is too low,” said legislator Kuan Bi-ling, opposing an increase to restrictions as an intrusion into people’s daily lives.
On Taiwanese social media residents were scathing of the debate, saying adults should be more responsible, and that this was a waste of the legislature’s time.
“How can we amend the law for those who sell their personality for the sake of benefits?” said one commenter. “Be responsible for your own life, Salmons!” said another.