Saturday, August 30, 2008

Aug 30 Rally blows away expectations

I just got back from the Aug 30th rally marking Ma Ying-jeou's first 100 days as President, where I walked with thousands of Taiwanese dissatisfied with the direction of the nation.

First, the media distortion. The Green media is reporting as many as 300,000, though some are reporting a more reasonable 150,000. The pan-Blue media hilariously is reporting 40,000. On this planet, there were 150,000 or so (more on that later).

Let's put that in perspective: the DPP thought 100,000 might turn out, if things went well, I didn't expect more than 20,000.

We got 150,000.

150,000 raucous, energized, Taiwan-loving, I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I-won't-take-it-anymore, economically suffering, politically marginalized, ornery, sweaty, crowded, salt-of-the-earth Taiwanese with the power of righteousness like a lightning strike in every line and crack of their sun-baked faces. They were trading names and butting heads. They were rowdy. They were screaming and yelling and singing and shouting and the walls of Jericho would have melted before them like sea-foam in sunlight. They were the people of Taiwan.

Folks, I got religion. I went to the election rallies in January and in March, and felt like they were going through the motions. I didn't get religion; I returned home empty and afraid. I went today and I was with people who believed. Who spent the hours saying Ma Ying-jeou's name like a swear word. Who made sardonic jokes and jogged each other in the ribs and shoved each other out of the way. Who left Chen Shui-bian behind and looked to the present and especially, the future. Who hadn't given up on Taiwan even though the mighty in their halls of power had given up on them, repeatedly.

Awesome. They are the future of Taiwan. Maybe they will acquiesce to the coming sell out, sullen, inarticulate, and impotent. But maybe they will rise and smash the pillars of the mighty with a grunt and a heave like Samson at his last banquet.

Enough preaching already. On to the pics!

The first hint that today was going to explode my pessimistic expectations was in the metro. We got there early but it was already packed.

It was obvious as we walked out of the metro into the light what today was going to be like.

An absolute sea of people.

Banners everywhere.

Lots of parents with children.

And the Taiwan media was there, children without parents.

My children, citizens of Taiwan, were there too.

The crowds lined all the nearby streets and filled the temple and the metro area.

We tried to find paraphenalia but it had all been given away or sold. I got the last hat from one of the vendors in the crowd.

Sound trucks everywhere.

The crowd lines up to march.

Hoping for a better future?

One of the banner carriers.

Always a bright Taiwan smile for visitors.

Exhorting the crowd.

Pretty faces with welcoming smiles.

At last we got moving. The sea of banners contained numerous economic complaints, an important advance. The DPP has never focused on economic issues like this.

A vendor watches the crowd.

Ok, so not everyone had a welcoming smile.

The crowd filled the street. I carefully sectioned it off based on what I learned in the TVBS protest last year, counted, then extrapolated. I got off to side where I could see the crowd stretching back and ahead for several blocks. I figure at least 50,000 people must have been in the actual march with me in that area.

Colorful signs everywhere.

Marchers not only filled the street but marched along by the stores on both sides as well.

The police did their usual excellent crowd control work. Here the crowd is halted to permit the traffic to go by.

A leftover political ad from the legislative election.

Observers bang pots and pans to encourage the crowd.

People were screaming at us everywhere along the route.

Carrying the banners.

At this point we've been walking for about 45 minutes but the crowd has only thinned a little, and stretched out for a long way along either side of me (I started out within 20 meters of the lead truck).

A sticker distributed to marchers complains of economic pain.

Lots of people stopped to watch and take photographs.

This picture is here for historical purposes only.

A lovely politician from Pingtung Tainan leads cheers.

Greeting the sound trucks.

In between the concrete canyons.

A sign holder smiles for a picture.

Thankfully, the police were bored stiff.

Hu and his boy, Ma Ying-jeou.

As we reached the stretch of road in front of the Presidential Palace, the crowd reached a crescendo of density. It was absolutely packed from the Presidential Palace to the South gate.

A large banner.

The crowd waits for the speakers.

This shot and the previous shot were taken by a kind fellow to whom I passed my camera.

A sea of signs and banners.

I walked around the crowd and headed over to the Dead Dictator Memorial Hall.

As you can see, the crowds have arrived, but the roads around the Memorial were empty. Plenty of people here resting but they don't fill the road. Since it would take about 200,000 at least to fill this area, I figure somewhere around 150,000 showed, enough to pack the stretch of Aiguo and Chungshan Road by the ministries and then splinter off down these roads.

Jerome Keating and his wife Monica were waiting for us.

This photo is here purely as a historical and cultural datum. I would never ever put a picture here merely because it contained several cute young women.

The great gate of Nameinflux hall.

The vendors were making hay while the sun shone.

Green babes: my friend Joyce, my wife, and Avril Lavigne my daughter.

Me in front of Nameinflux Hall. As you can see, there are no more people than would be expected on such a Saturday. The crowd never reached here, clearly indicating it did not come anywhere near 300,000. At the same time, the idea that 40,000 people were there as pan-Blue media organs were claiming is laughable and easily refuted from the photos here.

At evening, herds of buses return south. The DPP apparently chartered 500 buses for the event and I heard that one group even rented a train. But clearly most of the marchers arrived on their own buck.

Lots of marchers complaining about the economy and Ma's cooperation with China. Lots of marchers blowing away the DPP's wildest expectations. It was good to see the DPP use Ma's economic claims against him. Let's hope that DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen can find a way to translate this energy into momentum for the future...

UPDATE: Spoke to a longtime radio personality here and single mother after the rally. She had marched, her first ever in all the long years of protests. She added that she was not the only one for which this was a first march. Maddog has a long piece with pics of some of the many excellent banners focusing on sunshine laws, the stock market, and other issues, as well as a rip on the media for reporting the falsehood that only 40,000 attended. When I arrived at the gathering point there were thirty or forty thousand at my back, and a like number already there, and more streaming in from the other march. We were well over 100,000 and more were coming. It sucks the way the media uncritically accepts such numbers.

UPDATE: A local photographer caught my kids. This guy rode on one of the trucks and got some excellent pics of the signs and the crowd. Another tale of the rally is here. Reuters has quality video here. The Only Redhead here. Island Republic has a great set of pictures here.

UPDATE (SEPT 5): Paul Lin in the Taipei Times observes what an electrifying effect the rally had on DPP morale.



41 comments:

Mad Minerva said...

Thanks for the coverage. I've linked to it. International Herald Tribune reports only 40,000.

Thanks for supporting Taiwan democracy; I only wish I were there!

Ramblin said...

How would you translate the three characters "self rule people" on these signs? (自主人) (Sorry, I only read / speak Japanese.)

GFYOIFIM said...

This rally is supposed to have two appeals: 1) economy 2) Taiwan independence against Ma's government who has only been in power for 100 days. Yet, it's very odd that these people don't hold the two-term President Chen for the current economic problems and Taiwan still not being a country. These people want Ma who just came to power for 100 days to be held accountable? It's Chen who didn't declare independence in the past 8 years. That is right, Chen only had time to launder money around 4 continents, 10 countries, but no time for the Taiwan independence work. I wonder when he is going to bring his $30M USD back to Taiwan to give it to you TI crowd? lol.... You are just a bunch of losers who keep falling for the same Chen/DPP Ponzi scams over and over and over again. Your TI ideal sounds more hollow by the day as Chen's pockets got thicker!

Seriously, if you are stirring up all this trouble on the blogland for Taiwan, because you missed your own country's independence war more than two hundred years ago, go find your own island still full of aborigines to delcare independence . Seven million Taiwanese voters voted Ma for president this time. That is a message loud and clear: TI dream is out and reality of a strong Greater China is in. Please go back to your own country and find and fix problems in YOUR country.

I am sick and tired of hearing Americans and foreigners telling Taiwanese what we should or should not do. You are not Taiwanese, you can't vote in Taiwan, and you have no intention to shed blood for a TI war with China. You are only a guest in Taiwan and you should mind your own business, or take your wife and American kids and move back to YOUR country and leave Taiwanese alone.

Johnny said...

I like this photo. The future of Taiwan!
:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/71122762@N00/2810435215/

Richard said...

Great coverage. All western media is reporting it within the "tens of thousands" but not more than 50,000. Some managing to add that the "organizers headcount" was 100,000.

Nice analogies with the Bible, it definitely helped convey the emotions that were being felt.

Mashhood said...

臺灣加油!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Michael,

Great narrative and pictures. They are such a powerful medium to get the feel of such an event across.

Gerrit from Washington DC

Michael Turton said...

I am sick and tired of hearing Americans and foreigners telling Taiwanese what we should or should not do. You are not Taiwanese, you can't vote in Taiwan, and you have no intention to shed blood for a TI war with China. You are only a guest in Taiwan and you should mind your own business, or take your wife and American kids and move back to YOUR country and leave Taiwanese alone.

Clueless one, my wife and kids are Taiwanese. Taiwan's future is their future.

The people voted for Ma because he promised to make them rich. Now he can't and should be taken to task.

Michael

Anonymous said...

The thing I really noticed was that the attendees were not just a bunch of DPP party faithful, but many small groups of citizens. Yes, the DPP did organize groups to show up, but there were many others that just dropped in. The whole event was lacking the staged orchestration of the political rallies and felt like a much more grass roots type of movement.
There was only one small incident where one marcher shouted for Chen Shui bian, but he was shut down by everyone else. The pro Taiwan camp is NOT pro-Chen and will not follow him to the ends of the earth, no matter how wrong he is (unlike the supporters of the Chiang family).
People seemed very humble and issue oriented. Taiwan was center stage and not the DPP.

p.s.

"You are only a guest in Taiwan and you should mind your own business, or take your wife and American kids and move back to YOUR country and leave Taiwanese alone."

The a prime example of racism, intolerance and the result of ROC institutionalized ethnocentricism.

gfyoifim,
you obviously can't recognize what a TRUE Taiwanese family looks like.

A.T. Chen said...

Yes! 加油! I admit that ever since Ma was elected, I've been worried that there wouldn't be enough independence supporters outspoken enough to make a difference. My family and I are in the U.S., and we're strong DPP backers regardless of the Chen Shui-Bian case (aka the excuse for the KMT to bash the DPP). I'm glad that Ma's misrepresentations, unfulfilled promises, and kowtowing to the Chinese government are being noticed. Thanks so much for the coverage! After many discouraging developments from the pan-Blue end, it really gives hope to see news like this!

By the way, would you mind if I used some of your photographs (crediting you, of course) in a slideshow? It's fine if not...I'd just like to share them with others. Thank you again, in any case!

Richard said...

"I am sick and tired of hearing Americans and foreigners telling Taiwanese what we should or should not do."

Then you should have a good idea how many Taiwanese feel when China insists on telling us who we are, what we are, and how we should act. Just as you said, sick and tired.

Anonymous said...

Whether 40k or 140k, it is wonderful to hear that the Taiwanese, at least some of them appreciate democracy and its attendant forms.

India is democratic. Russia tries and blows it. China will step up to the plate sooner or later.

Now China has a situation because of the break away Georgian areas and Russia wants Chinese support.

Sounds pretty democratic to me.

Michael Turton said...

a.t. chen, go ahead and use anything you like.

Richard, nice comment. Thanks!

marc said...

GFYOIFIM said, Seven million Taiwanese voters voted Ma for president this time. That is a message loud and clear: TI dream is out and reality of a strong Greater China is in.

It is clearly YOU who are out of touch with reality. Around 80% of Taiwanese is a TVBS poll want sovereignity from China.

You type of people work hard at spreading misinformation knowing that if you repeat it enough people will start to believe it.

For example, 7 million people voted for change of government as was their wont. But in reality, about 4 million registered voters didn't cast a vote, many in protest of government's unwillingness to reform itself.

Add that 4 million to those who voted for Hsieh and you've got about half the country who DIDN'T vote KMT.

I don't call that a loud and clear mandate for Ma, do you?

marc said...

Hey Michael, I think your daughter's new hairstyle looks great!

Joshua Samuel Brown said...

Excellent reportage, man. Wish I were home.

Carlos said...

gfyoifim, you're right that Ma isn't largely responsible for the poor state of the economy. That part of the protests have more to do with hypocrisy and hyperbole. The primary argument of Ma's presidential campaign was "the economy is terrible under Chen, and it will be wonderful under Ma." The former point seemed like strong exaggerations by the pan-Blue media, but it's the latter that's really upset people. If you want to go into detail about it I'm sure you could start that debate, but that's beside the point. Incorrectly or not, a lot of people have lost faith that Ma's administration has a plan to lift the economy.

And when they voted for Ma, that was back when he mentioned his love for Taiwan every chance he got. It wasn't a vote for reunification - only for maintaining the status quo. But it's a pipe dream to think that the status quo will last forever. Eventually China will get tired of it and then the ROC will die, and Taiwan will either be absorbed or become independent (not without outside help, obviously). But the voters hope to push that as far back into the future as they can.

Your second point is weaker. Chen was president, but never had a legislative majority backing him up. He also had to modify his platform to exclude outright independence to get elected - very few would accept war for the chance of official independence.

Your final point about foreigners in Taiwan is sad. Seriously... "only a guest"? Outsiders have run our island for most of the last hundred years! It's the greatest thing ever that we have immigrants that respect Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

Sign of good things to come!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm. Interesting pics certainly but two points:

"I went to the election rallies in January and in March, and felt like they were going through the motions. I didn't get religion; I returned home empty and afraid." This is certainly NOT the impression given of, for instance, the DPP rally in Taichung (?) in the run-up to the national election. Instead some syrupy commentary was given.

Secondly, the comment about people turning their back away from Chen and looking to the future. Er, don't they have no choice? Wasn't it Chen who ensured the Taiwanese economy slackened - something not mentioned in today's blog entry - and also wasn't it he who was certainly not whiter than whiter and has in effect meant the DPP to be electorable has to have nothing to do with him?

However qudos to you Michael for opening up to debate, and for responding to people's thoughts. In know some 'authorities' on Taiwan use their blogs as a means put forth self-opinion, and not to invite discourse other than that they subscribe too.

STOP Ma said...

.
.
.
Here! Here! Richard!

The overwhelming majority in Taiwan DO NOT want to unify with China -- at any cost.

And once they figure out that PandaMa is leading them in that direction, there will be a backlash. The charade that selling out to China = short-term economic prosperity is not working too well and it seems the Taiwanese are beginning to wake up now. I just wish the majority would have figured it out a lot sooner.
.
.
.

Michael Turton said...

This is certainly NOT the impression given of, for instance, the DPP rally in Taichung (?) in the run-up to the national election. Instead some syrupy commentary was given.

Yes. I thought I must be wrong in my impression of the 3/16 rally. Everyone else seemed charged! I was the one out of step. January too, I felt the same way, and then the DPP set new voter records. Oh, my impression must have been wrong! So I reported not what I felt but what I felt was right, if you understand what I mean.

One of my biggest problems is constant second guessing myself.

Michael Turton said...

Wasn't it Chen who ensured the Taiwanese economy slackened - something not mentioned in today's blog entry -

On this planet, the Taiwan economy grew 4.8% in 06, 5.7% in 07, and 6.06% in the first half of 08. The reason that I didn't mention the slackening economy is that there was no such slackening. It was in fact accelerating.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

also wasn't it he who was certainly not whiter than whiter and has in effect meant the DPP to be electorable has to have nothing to do with him?

Yes. He wasn't present at the rally spiritually. Word went down that Chen paraphenila were verboten, and others reported that people who cried out in support of Chen were shouted down. But I didn't witness that so didn't report it. You can search the pics but there is little that is pro-Chen in them. Perhaps in the end we can find some positives here for the DPP: they can learn that the public expects the reform party to actually reform.

Michael

Guust said...

Michael, great that you went there, thx for the pics. We just arrived/returned today, and it's great to see so many people stepping up against slimy Ma, who would give everything way (to China obviously) getting nothing much in return.

kaminoge said...

GFYOIFIM wrote:
"I am sick and tired of hearing Americans and foreigners telling Taiwanese what we should or should not do."

Americans AND foreigners? Obviously we are not Taiwanese, but if we are not "foreigners" either, where does that put us? Should I feel honored to be included in such a special category of non-Taiwanese people? Is it something like the "Honorary Whites" designation in apartheid-era South Africa?

Taiwan Voice said...

That lovely politician is actually from Tainan city, not Pingtung.

reeb said...

Its uplifting to see the turnout. Thanks for your photos + commentary.

I regret now that I didn't show up for this one. I didn't think it would be a big deal.

Richard said...

Michael,

gyfoifim is saying you are filtering his comments. I know you've said in the past that you don't, so just wondering where his comments are? Because now he's responding to the comments here, on my blog, which is fine, but its sort of side tracking my blogs' topic. :)

Michael Turton said...

gyfoifim is saying you are filtering his comments. I know you've said in the past that you don't, so just wondering where his comments are?

I used to have a policy of not rejecting any comment unless it as obscene, threatening, legally actionable, etc. But I got a lot of troll abuse and so changed the policy. Other commenters complain if I let the trolls in -- at Forumosa the pro-China troll ac-dropout has done quite a bit of harm to that community and nobody wants to see the comment section go to pot like that. So generally I let people post, and when they prove themselves to be a troll, I reject them afterwards.

I prefer to permit anonymous comments because I get so many good ones. But anonymous blowhards like gyfiofim who post streams of public insults will get short shrift.

I sympathize, man, but I recommend moderating. Otherwise you'll just be overwhelmed with trolls who just want to shut down the discourse.

I don't know why it seems almost impossible for pro-KMT types to comment in an informed and rational way. Note also the stark lack of rational, informed, pro-KMT commentary in the English blogosphere. It would be nice to have some, and to have some on this blog in the comments. I wish posters like gfyoifim would refrain from engaging in pointless hate speech, and instead post informed critiques. But after years of experience, I'm pessimistic about the possibility of informed pro-KMT commentary in this sphere.

Michael

Claudia Jean said...

Hi Michael,

I realised they are your children after reading your post yesterday. They are great - the future of Taiwan. Those photos were taken by Yufu. He kindly let me put his photos on my blog. Do you know him?

I've been following your blog for a while and got inspired by what you do you might say. I felt the task became particularly urgent when a friend from Belgium asked me 'So... Taiwan is still independent? I thought someone from Taiwan said that you and China are the same country (nation)'. It turned out that she was referring to Wu Po-hsiung. So I started off writing for my friends who don't know much about Taiwanese poltics or any background history. I try to respond to the sort of questions they may ask me about Taiwan. They don't necessarily want to know the ins and outs of many things but would rather see some sort of an overview... I thought blogs like yours would take care of anyone who wants to get more in-depth cos I honestly can't do it better than you do.

Anyway, thanks for supporting Taiwan and doing all this.

Janus said...

A truly inspiring event. Thank you, Michael! And kudos to all commentors who beat me to the punch of dismembering GFYOIFIM's "Greater China" jingoism.

You know, I almost with you'd let GFYOIFIM if only because his points are so easily refutable...

Michael Turton said...

Claudia:

my kids were thrilled to see their pictures. Actually, I've seen Yuhu many times at rallies but have never spoken to him. I recognized the photo of my kids instantly and remembered him stopping by to take it just before he clambered up on the truck.

I'm very happy that you are spreading the good word about the beautiful isle! The more voices, the better!

Michael

Wemdy said...

What a wonderful delight to have finally found your blog. I'm a new blogger myself, "The Taiwan Independence Lawyer". What you call "troll control" I call it "dog control", and after entertaining these barking animals for a while, I got tired of it and decided to simply click "delete" whenever I see their comment on my blog. Feels great!

As for the GFYOIFIM (小白), get the f**k out of Taiwan, you obviously don't belong. The only reason Ma won the election was because he masked himself as Taiwanese and promised great economy. And look how many of those 7 million voters now regret having voted for Ma? If you so much want to be Chinese, get your ass over to China and try to enjoy your freedom to browse the internet.

Claudia Jean said...

Hi Michael,

I saw a clip on Reuters the correspondent definitely mentioned the sign 'Taiwan Yes, China No'. She was probably talking about the one your children were holding!
http://uk.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=89895

Claudia

Michael Turton said...

Could be Claudia, but my kids were one of several people holding that!

Michael

Claudia Jean said...

Forgot to mention. Yufu is also a very famous caricaturist. He started doing political caricatures since the 80s and has participated in a lot of rallies against the old KMT government. He was Shih, Ming-deh's assistant in the parliament and left Shih when he realised that Shih was not professional enough as a politician or as a MP. Yufu later became a Chief Exec. of Sanlih TV and left around 2000 because he didn't like the media environment. He's now focusing his energy on the internet and started Yushan online TV, trying to find other ways to counteract the Pan-Blue dominance in traditional major media. However, financial back up is a major limitation. He's been paying for those things largely out of his own pocket.

http://vivataiwantv.blogspot.com/
This used to be the website for the presidential election but has since turned into a news site, showing clips or events that Pan Blue media usually ignores.

http://taiwanyes.ning.com/
This is where a lot of pro-Taiwan people and bloggers 'meet up' to share their writing, music etc.

There is a place under this site
http://taiwanyes.ning.com/group/foreignnews
where people post news artcies in foreign press to observe how Taiwan matters are reported in the outside world. If they see anything incorrect or very objective, they alert their members to write to the editor to either suggestion corrections or encourage objective reporting on Taiwan. So far, we've seen English, Japanese and Korean and hopefully more languages in future.

If you wish, please go and speak to Yufu next time you see him (I'm sure there will be another chance seeing how Ma responded to this one). He's very friendly. He has a daughter just graduating from the University of Washington(?) in Seattle this summer.

Claudia

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I am sick and tired of hearing Americans and foreigners telling Taiwanese what we should or should not do. You are not Taiwanese, you can't vote in Taiwan, and you have no intention to shed blood for a TI war with China. You are only a guest in Taiwan and you should mind your own business, or take your wife and American kids and move back to YOUR country and leave Taiwanese alone."

"Whoever posted this, I have one suggestion: why don't you go back to China and leave our Taiwan alone? You're just as much as guest as anyone."

Alton said...

Hi, Michael. I'm glad you were able to make it to Taipei!

I was taking photos at Ketagalan Boulevard. Incredible crowd. All ages, very friendly, very spirited.

Did you see how many college students and teens were there on behalf of blogging groups? They were selling swag and putting up displays.

Here's a link to GreenPretty, a group of teen women. Their motto: 'We care so we blog.'

http://greenpretty168.pixnet.net/blog/

They've designed an elegant and clever logo, as you can see. Their swag disappears quickly!

Thomas said...

"I don't know why it seems almost impossible for pro-KMT types to comment in an informed and rational way."

Michael, I suspect there are many that can, only they would not frequent a blog in which they are the minority. It is human nature. I think most of the "irrational" posters that keep popping up in these types of rooms are indeed trolls, and their job is primarily to be irrational and ruin the blog for everyone else, thus stifle conversation about events.

The amount of time they have on their hands too means they are clearly employed by someone to do just that.

Thank you for your moderation. The last thing that this blog needs is another AC Dropout. I remember I was once warned by a Forumosa moderator to not use ad hominum attacks (mine was very mild, no profanity and very true). The targer? AC Dropout. A known troll reported me, and I was "warned" by Forumosa for a small bit of nothing. That experience alone made me not want to comment there anymore.

Shanghaiist has eastman. Pekingduck has several. And the only way to get these trolls to shut up is if nobody takes them seriously. Unfortunately, there are a lot of gullible people out there.

bettysue said...

you so great!!!!!!

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