Sunday, September 16, 2007

Protests with the Mostest

KMT supporters arrive for the big rally.

Massive rallies in Taiwan yesterday! I stopped by the KMT UN rally today for about an hour and a half during its opening moments, where I met the redoubtable Craig Ferguson of CFImages (Craig's beautiful images are up now on his blog), and watched my first rally from the Other Side. UPDATE: Feiren has pics and commentary about Kaoshiung up at Taiwan Matters!

Waiting in the shade on a bitterly hot afternoon.

Step into the world of the Taiwanese KMT. Everyone at the rally was speaking Taiwanese, including the speakers on the stage, except for a few more formal remarks. The ralliers were asked to proclaim their love for Taiwan (ROC? What ROC?), and many led cheers calling for Chen to step down. Such remarks are so widespread, that one wonders whether the KMT realizes that it is running against Frank Hsieh, not Chen Shui-bian.

The Memorial at 823 Park.

The rally was held at the 8/23 Park in northern Taichung, which commemorates one of the great victories in the artillery war fought between ROC and PRC forces between the islands off the China coast in the 1950s.

Craig Ferguson, loaded for bear.

Craig and I were the only white foreigners there, and we were just there to take pictures. I was approached by several media people, and left a verbal barb in the pro-KMT UDN reporter, telling him that I, like most foreigners here, was Green. I refused all requests to speak; God knows what I would have said with a microphone in my face.

Media and sound trucks poised for action.

The rally was attended by people from all over the central part of the island. There were a large number of people dressed in aboriginal costume.

A souvenir vendor hoists Ma Ying-jeou paraphenalia.

None of the major politicians had arrived by the time I left at 4:30. The heat was oppressive, and most people were sensibly hiding out in the shade.

Brightly colored flags make for pretty pictures.

Ralph Jennings of Reuters on the UN Rallies:
About 250,000 people demonstrated in two Taiwan cities on Saturday to back the island's doomed efforts at securing United Nations membership, a move condemned by rival Beijing and rejected by ally Washington.

Some 150,000 people, including President Chen Shui-bian, marched through the southern port city of Kaohsiung in pro-U.N. green shirts and waving flags. Political opposition forces in Taichung meanwhile marshaled at least 100,000 people.

"The biggest thing is for the United Nations and the United States to notice that this U.N. effort is not just something Chen Shui-bian is doing," said Kaohsiung demonstrator Wang Chun-kai, 35, a businessman from the nearby city of Tainan.

Government officials say they know the U.N. bid will fail, prompting speculation that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has used it to solidify a long-term agenda of greater independence from China by stirring anger at home.

The United Nations is expected to reject the bid on Tuesday.

"The U.N. bid, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with getting into the U.N.," said Ralph Cossa, president of the U.S.-based think tank Pacific Forum CSIS.

"I think it is mostly tied into the Taiwan identity issue and the DPP's efforts to lock future administrations into this mindset."
The last sentence shows the latest wisdom that is rattling about the Establishment echo chamber: that the UN bid is really the "radical" Chen's bid to control the "moderate" Hsieh so that the latter has to follow the "radical" independence path. Never mind that Hsieh and Chen, whatever the personal rivalries, belong to the same party, and have been advocating independence and UN entry for the better part of two decades, nor that Chen was widely seen as a "moderate" upon assuming office. Once the Establishment decides on something, no evidence to the contrary will get it to change the CW. Note that this position is essentially a pro-KMT propaganda theme that has been picked up in some of the more conservative publications -- that the whole UN thing is simply Chen's bid to control the future of the DPP.

The first requirement for a TV reporter is babeness.

The Associated Press reported:
Surrounded by cheering supporters, Chen led marchers through the Kaohsiung streets amid colorful banners and rippling flags, looking poised and confident.

Addressing a rally ending event at a downtown plaza, Chen declared his love for Taiwan as the crowd applauded wildly: "I pay respect and appreciation to you all."

It was a remarkable comeback for a man who only a year ago was written off as an embarrassment by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which feared that a series of corruption sandals involving his family and inner circle would doom it to defeat in the upcoming presidential poll.

But now it is the main opposition Nationalist Party that seems to be caught off balance, torn between its support for eventual unification with the mainland, and its recognition that U.N. membership is a huge vote-getter with the Taiwanese public.

Reflecting the party's dilemma, Nationalist presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou held his own pro-U.N. membership rally on Saturday, attracting about 50,000 supporters to the central city of Taichung. But unlike the DPP rally 125 miles to the south, this one pushed for Taiwan's U.N. re-entry under its official Republic of China name.
"Remarkable comeback?" Only if you believe pro-KMT polls.

Watching the speakers.

The Taipei Times reported that "several members of Congress" had expressed their support for Taiwan:

Several members of the US Congress expressed their support for Taiwan's bid to gain membership in the UN ahead of a rally promoting the bid scheduled for yesterday in New York.

In a letter to the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), one of the rally's main organizers, US Representative Anthony Weiner said he deeply regretted that the UN continues to disregard the sovereignty of Taiwan and deny the right of self-determination to its people.

"There is no question that the United States must stand strong and advocate Taiwan's independence from China and inclusion as a United Nations member state," Weiner said.

Releasing a statement on the issue, Representative Dana Rohrabacher said it was incongruous that a world body founded on the principles of universality and self-determination would exclude a free, democratic and independent nation whose population is larger than three-quarters of the UN' member states.

Rohrabacher said that with Taiwan possessing all the qualifications to become a UN member and ample resources to contribute to the work and funding of the UN, the country's accession to the world body is long overdue.

"Let's tell the world how unfair it has been to deny the 23 million people of Taiwan their voice and representation in the United Nations and especially their willingness to [help] other nations in need," he said.
Good to see a Dem, Weiner, in there pitching for Taiwan. Weiner represents Brooklyn and Queens in NY.

Volunteer grandmothers make the world go round.

The Taipei Times reported on the rally in Taichung:
Putting their 14-month-old boy on the father's shoulder, a Taichung resident surnamed Chang and her husband called on the DPP to reflect on its poor policies and urged the government to pay more attention to social problems.

"I closed my betel nut stand today to join the rally. We don't care about the UN referendum. What we want is a better life," said Chang, who declined to give her full name.

Dressed in traditional Amis clothing, Wang Chun-mei (王春梅) and dozens of her friends echoed Chang's demand for higher living standards.

"The people should stand up and fight for our economy. We want the government to take care of disadvantaged groups and develop the tourism industry," she said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) did not attend the march, but showed up at the evening party afterwards.

Former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) declined to attend the event.

Addressing the party, Ma condemned the DPP version of the referendum as an election gimmick designed to stir up emotions.

Ma said that the KMT version would not harm Taiwan's relationship with Washington.

Among the other KMT heavyweights NOT in attendance was Jason Hu, the mayor of Taichung, who had the excuse of being abroad.

Traditional music performers are an important part of any election activity.

The Beeb has pictures of the rallies up on its website here. Guess what: the whole world is talking about the UN bid. Go Grand Fenwick!

A KMT candidate exhorts her supporters.

AFP reported:

In contrast to the carnival atmosphere in central and southern Taiwan, dozens of people scuffled with police outside the Presidential Office in Taipei, where they were gathered to oppose the planned referendum.

Protestors sprayed red paint on photographs of the president and on government banners promoting the UN bid in a show of anger.

Some 15 of Taiwan's 24 allies have proposed the island's membership application to the General Assembly, which will decide whether to discuss it when the annual session opens on September 18.

Sounds like Shih's Red Ants were busy too....

Young performers ham it up for the camera.

These rallies announce the beginning of the serious election season here in Taiwan, which means that this issue will decline in importance as the DPP moves on to other activities -- meaning that This Too Shall Blow Over. Observe that all the KMT can do now is borrow ideas from the DPP and react to its thrusts, because -- as I've repeatedly noted -- the KMT has no platform of its own. Running on the economy is a dangerous idea, since Hsieh can co-opt its economic platform of opening to China very easily, and with greater credibility (and at present the economy is doing OK). The KMT has been totally defeated on the identity issue. If Ma loses or the legislative elections are a surprise, a profound identity crisis may grip the KMT. The Taiwanese KMT legislators have grumbled as ideologue Ma tightens his grip on the party, marginalizing their unofficial leader, Wang Jyn-ping, currently speaker of the legislature. They may be ripe for Wang to use as a base to form his own localized KMT party, or even to flip to the DPP.

And waiting out there somewhere is PFP Chairman James Soong, who may retain some shreds of popularity out there in the hinterlands somewhere......

The opening speakers. Everyone was pretty listless in the late afternoon heat at this point.

The Blue Sandal Babes.

The KMT symbol for this rally was the ubiquitous blue sandal, worn by Taiwanese everywhere, supposedly to symbolize the party's identification with the working classes (who, not by coincidence, form the core of the DPP's base). The Sandal Babes were followed everywhere by the media, and showed up in shots in the local newspapers. Smart marketing -- if you want something viewed, put a babe in it -- but the reality is that almost everyone at the rally came wearing ordinary shoes (sensibly too, since no one can walk any distance in flip-flops), at least when I was there.

Hope to see some great pics of the Kaohsiung rally from local bloggers. It may not reflect actual voting patterns, but it was nice to see the DPP rally crush the KMT rally. On to the elections!


Anonymous said...

Do you have ideas about the number? I trust you more than those reporters ;-)

Anonymous said...

The figures for the rallies should be something like 50-60,000 (counted by police, not numbers the Chinese KMT feeds press lapdogs) for the Chinese KMT rally in Taichung and around 150,000 for Kaohsiung (unfortunately not counted by police, but likewise, it's the DPP's 500-600,000 number divided by about 3).

It still may be that half the island will vote for the KMT in the coming elections, but this return as the ROC to the UN business can't possibly really be supported outside of the 7-9% mainlander population. Ma made a bad gamble and that they had to pay for 1000 buses to get old people to the rally and even then only get 50,000 people is pretty nuts. Michael, what's the population of Taichung itself? At least half a million to a million right?

Asi said...

I'm confused. The KMT want to re-unify with China? I remember reading that many months ago?

But now they are also on a UN bid??

Or am I just a lost sheep?

JZ said...

The DPP would have the world believe that "opposition to Taiwan independence is opposition to democracy." Obviously the US doesn't agree.

Angry Taiwanese Guy said...

Also, your sign was held by me (I'm in orange) in the lower left corner of the AP article here:

Also I'm in the middle of here:

Michael, your, "Let Taiwan Be Taiwan" sign was very good and the other papers like the Liberty Times had it in many photos front and center. I'll take a photo of the physical paper and send it to you later.

Anonymous said...

Hi asi,

My take on KMT's UN Reentry under the name of ROC is this, since the seat of ROC is taken by PRC, the only way to "Reenter" as ROC again is to either boot PRC out and take the seat back, OR as a part of PRC, which in a sense is reentering UN using ROC.

Which course is more likely to be Ma's choice? I will let you be the judge of that.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. The KMT want to re-unify with China? I remember reading that many months ago?

KMT - Rejoining UN in the name of ROC. I believe other names could be used i.e. Taipei Taiwan.

DPP - Joining UN in the name of Taiwan etc. It is pretty much a vote on pseudo-independance.

Regardless, either one passes Taiwan will be in trouble and it will be depended on how China reads it. Personally, I want it to pass. People of Taiwan need to learn a lesson no matter who's at fault.