Tuesday, October 28, 2008

500,000 Turn Out in Taipei

Saturday was a day for big turnouts. Bushman's Blogtoberfest had a pretty big turn out, with more than 30 showing up in Hukou outside of Hsinchu to eat Thai food, drink, sing loudly, and chat the night away. Pix here. Several of us in the 'Chung are mulling a spring blogger bash encompassing the entire island, but the venue is a problem.

The big news, though, was the outstanding turnout in Taipei for the DPP's anti-China, anti-Ma march. We'll let Ralph Jennings of Reuters carry the ball....

Close to half a million people marched in Taiwan on Saturday to protest against the government's growing ties with China, where a tainted milk powder scandal has fueled fresh distrust toward Beijing among island citizens.

In the strongest display of opposition yet to President Ma Ying-jeou, demonstrators flooded central Taipei demanding that Ma step down over his friendly approach to Chinese officials.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and has threatened to use force, if necessary, to bring the island under its rule.

"If the government continues what it's doing now, we feel it's closing possibilities for the future of Taiwan," said main opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen.

The protests, organized by the party, come ahead of a first-ever visit by Chen Yunlin, Beijing's top negotiator on Taiwan affairs, on November 3 and could continue into next month to get the official's attention.

China has claimed Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island. But the two sides have held historic talks and established new trade and transit links since Ma took office in May, following decades of hostility.

After a first wave of activists camped overnight outside the presidential office, protesters marched along five routes waving strongly worded banners urging Ma and his premier to step down. They urged the government to pull back from China.

Half a million was the number pretty much everyone agreed on. Apple Daily said 600,000, Taiwan News had 500,000. The Financial Times also had 600,000. Taiwan News reported:

Placards and banners carried by protesters featured slogans such as "Area Chief Ma Should Immediately Step Down!," "Three Strikes and Liu's Out!," "I am not a f**king Chinese" and "Down with the Traitorous Horse (Ma's surname!)"

Students carried giant black student graduation caps emblazoned with the five red stars of the PRC flag and banners charging Ma with "selling out the future of Taiwan children."

Despite receiving a death threat with a bullet Thursday, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), wearing a green and white "U.N. for Taiwan" sweatshirt, marched in the First Column of the march under the slogan of "Oppose Chinese Toxic Goods" from the Tinghao Shopping Center in eastern Taipei.

Many protesters called "Go Abian!" or other slogans of encouragement to the former president along the route, but Chen did not make any statements himself.

Interestingly, TVBS, despite its well-known rabid anti-DPP biases, said 500,000 attended as well. AP, however, was reliably demure, saying "thousands rallied." Thousands could mean as few as two or three thousand. Why not "tens of thousands" or "hundreds of thousands" which would be more accurate? Nope. Mere thousands.

Entertainment, though, was provided by the well-known anti-Green blog ESWN, the widely read tabloid blog out of Hong Kong. Not wanting to put the local Taiwan papers in, because a selection would have quickly shown that 500,000 showed up in Taipei, ESWN grandly called it 'reporting by outside newspapers' and turned to Chinese language papers nowhere near Taiwan that parroted the Xinhua line, which according to the Ming Pao report ESWN cited was....

The Beijing official Xinhua Agency did not mention the number of marchers in its relevant news release from Taipei. The Xinhua report cited Taiwan opinion that even though this appeared to be an "anti-China, anti-Ma" march, it was actually an internecine struggle within the Democratic Progressive Party.
Xinhua's claim was that the March was a power struggle between DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen and former President Chen Shui-bian. That's right, the Blue team is still completely obsessed with Chen (despite all that has happened in Taiwan, ESWN has basically blogged only on Ma's falling popularity and whatever is happening with Chen Shui-bian) and wants to claim that the 500,000 people on the streets on Saturday were just there to struggle with each other over Tsai and Chen. ESWN even translated the reporting of "rumors" by Southern Metropolis Daily...
... The DPP march yesterday was a fight between Chen Shui-bian and Tsai Ing-wen. The Party Central and the Bian faction competed for bodies from southern Taiwan, including bidding for buses. Some "green" legislators complained that the Bian faction offered "cut-throat rates" that affected their ability to mobilize people. It was even rumored that the Party Central and the legislators had to require participants pay several hundred NT dollars for transportation while the Chen faction charged nothing. Thus, more than 100 buses carrying more than 4,000 people went from Kaohsiung to support Bian.
Wow! 4000 people out of....500,000. Ming Pao also tried to claim only 200,000 was the police figure, although the Taipei Times said no official police figure was given. UPDATE: As Thomas points out below, ESWN had to choose his papers carefully. The South China Morning Post also had 500,000.

The great thing about the Blues' obsession with Chen is that it is managing to do what Chen himself would otherwise be unable to accomplish: turn Chen Shui-bian into a folk hero by giving every appearance of persecuting him.


Dixteel said...

It's very nice to see so many turn up...it's a small beacon of hope I think...

Unknown said...

Michael, there's an excellent editorial today in the Taipei Times about the political apathy of Taiwan's youth. It's written by Michael Cole.

Tommy said...

ESWN clearly chose his biased sources with great care as the SCMP very clearly said on successive days that there were 500,000 marchers. So even the papers of Hong Kong, where he is located, reported the correct number.

One area where the SCMP did fall through, not surprisingly, is in depicting the rally as an entirely "pro-independence" event. Ma's other missteps were completely glossed over.

It is amusing to hear that some are calling this a march dominated by internecine strife. If there was strife, than the DPP did a fantastic job of covering it up.

One other thought that crossed my mind was that several years ago, when Hong Kong was considering passing its national security law, Article 23, 500,000 Hong Kong people took to the streets.

This was enough to get both Hong Kong's government and the central government to pay attention. Article 23 was shelved indefinitely. Even as Macau prepares its own version of Article 23 right now, Hong Kong legislators have gone on record as saying that they have no plans to revive Article 23 soon.

What does this say about how Hong Kong's government interprets public opinion and how the Ma government does?

Ma will just come out looking non-responsive, especially after Chen Yunlin comes to town on Beijing's propaganda fest, protected by 7,000 of Taiwan's police officers. Another misstep?

Anonymous said...

Ma is being excoriated by pan-Blue media these days. Should really check out what some of Taiwan's Chinese-language media is saying.

His most recent idiotic move was to invite the media to take pictures of him moving and handling some of the boxes himself. Ooooooh!!! He lifts boxes himself!!!! Yeah, Taiwan has a lot bigger problems and is a lot more interested in what Ma's economic policies are going to be rather than this idiot moving boxes PR stunt.

Unknown said...

I was there in the show, and was able to see first hand (not very happy about it) the attempt to kill the party by the citizen (who was on his 40-50's, had tattoos on his legs, and so on) who tried to set fire to the diesel power stations (if they caught fire, a recipe for disaster was there, and probably I would be six feet under by now...), and with me there were about 20 young couples (as in univ student) cheering up. They were pretty strong when the "step down" chants were on the air, so I think that they were pretty much involved...

It was my first big party in Taiwan and I have to say, you can see me on the next one...


Anonymous said...

The march was a great success. Sunday's Taiwan times also had many great pictures. This was my first march and I was surprised to see that there were several parents with their young children in tow. One child was holding a large baby bottle with the words "poison milk powder".

TicoExpat said...

Loved the Three Deer with Devil Eyes. Taiwanese can be very creative when it comes to protests.