Floods of demonstrators took to the streets in Taipei City yesterday, venting
their anger at the [KMT] administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and its
policies, which they said threaten Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Protesters young and old marched under banners reading “Oppose toxic
products, defend sovereignty,” “Defend Taiwan,” “I am Taiwanese, not Chinese”
and “Taiwan is not part of China,” demanding that Beijing apologize to Taiwan
for selling milk and other products tainted with the industrial chemical
Event organizers estimated that more than 600,000 people took part in the rally,
while Taipei police said they would not provide an estimate.
Of course, rally organizers DO have a vested interest in inflating participation figures. Though it is telling when local police (who are notorious for low-balling anti-KMT protest numbers) uncharacteristically REFUSE to provide their own estimates...
At any rate, I was one of the five or six hundred thousand people there. Arrived at Bo Ai Road (the camera shop street) about 7 pm. I must say, the commercial area was pretty dead for a Saturday night. Had dinner, and walked over to Ketagalan Avenue. Miscalculated where I was going in the dark, and wound up behind the stage, facing the Presidential Building. Saw a small group of people engaged in a sit-down protest behind the barricades. And I also saw streaks of green laser light in the night air, aimed at the Presidential Building.
At the time, I had no way of knowing that the lasers were being used to trace the Chinese characters for "Incompetent" on President Ma Ying-jeou's offices. Looking at the picture I took now, you can see the neon green characters at the main entrance under the central tower. It's partially obscured by the steel girder of the barricade, however.
This is the best zoom of the above picture I could manage with a photo editor program:
(According to Babelfish.com, the Traditional Chinese characters for "incompetent" are 無能.)
After that, I made a wide detour along a side street so I could take a gander at the stage. Here 'tis:
Unfortunately, the photo compresses the distances involved, making it appear as though there's only a few hundred there. I figured a few thousand -- ten thousand, tops. Frankly, I was a little depressed at what I thought was a low turnout. But hey, I got there near the tail-end of the rally. Sunday's Taipei Times featured a shot from earlier Saturday:
Suffering from a killer headache and allergy-induced exhaustion, I left after about an hour. But not before snapping this giant "Chinese Baby Milk" balloon:
And not before getting a couple shots of this banner:
I assume the "running dog" is Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, delivering his country into the hands of Chinese President Hu Jintao. No idea what the #9 is supposed to signify, however. [UPDATE: See comments section for the answer.]
UPDATE #1: On Monday, the Chinese Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) issued an apology for the ill effects the melamine milk adulteration scandal has had on the Taiwanese economy.
So let's review. ARATS has had a MONTH to apologize -- and they only do it ONE WEEK before their delegation arrives in Taiwan. Or, make that TWO DAYS after HALF-A-MILLION are hacked off enough to take to the streets in an anti-unification march.
Life's just full of coincidences like that, I guess . . .
UPDATE #2: It should be noted that ARATS is an unofficial Chinese organization, so any apology they happen to issue is also, perforce, unofficial. But even were Hu Jintao himself to apologize tomorrow, the fact would remain that sorries don't butter no parsnips. Taiwanese bakeries are still going to go bankrupt no matter how effusive Chinese statements of regret are. (Or rather, AREN'T.)
Incidentally, that story from Monday's Taipei Times featured this howler:
. . . [Taiwanese negotiators were assured that ARATS] would make every effort to mete out severe punishment to those held responsible . . .
Errr, the Communist Party of China KNEW about the melamine milk problem at least as far back as August, but kept silent in order not to tarnish the glory of the Genocide Games.
So we will anxiously await the day when the Elliot Nesses of ARATS "mete out severe punishment" to all those nasty communist party chiefs . . . the same chiefs, by the way, who appointed our incorruptible investigators to their cushy ARATS jobs in the first place!
[Been very lethargic due to allergies or a throat infection or something for the last few weeks. Apologies for not posting sooner.]
Taipei has costumes for rent on Han Zhong Street in the Hsimending district. If you're in Taiwan and in the market for one, simply take Exit 1 from the Ximen MRT station. Han Zhong Street will be immediately in front of you as you step off the escalators. Unfortunately, there are no street signs visible from the side of the road you're on, but if you walk to the left, you'll quickly see a few costume shops on this side of the road. There are a couple across the street as well. You'll also see some dance shops, which rent ethnic dance costumes (Thai, Spanish, etc). That might do also, in a pinch.
The road dog-legs to the right a couple blocks down, and takes on a different street name. No costume shops along that road, I think -- only dance wear shops.
One other thing: If you don't speak Mandarin, you might want to bring a note written by a Taiwanese friend explaining that you want to rent a costume. I did that last year, and it seemed to work out pretty well.
Street sign on the same side of the road as the MRT station:
One of the first shops you'll come to:
Young Elvis and Fat Elvis? Hah! Well, THIS costume reflects all those years in-between, when The King fought crime under the tutelage of a certain Dark Knight in Gotham city . . .
One of the shops on the other side of the road:
A dance wear shop. OK, the one on the left is a Taiwanese aboriginal costume. But what country does the one on the right belong to?
For some reason, these costume shops don't sell pumpkins this time of year, but I bet they'd sell a few if they bothered to stock 'em. I
happened to pick up a large one at FE-21 in Taoyuan this year, though there
weren't many left. In Taipei, Jason's Supermarket in the basement of
Taipei 101 also had some, for about $300 NT each.
Looked over my last post, and was struck by these few lines:
While it's true that the KMT lost control over the executive for the last 8
years, it DID have effective working control over the legislative branch over
the same time frame. So how did it spend its time? Did the KMT spend the last 8 years KEEPING
ITS GOVERNING SKILLS SHARP by actually passing into law legislative proposals
that would benefit Taiwan?
Then I recalled last year, when Taiwan's KMT proposed putting a referendum question to the Taiwanese electorate about their opinion regarding Taiwan's entry into the U.N. under the name "Republic of China" (or some other "practical name").
Which I didn't have much of a problem with. Until the party reversed itself, and in a remarkable feat of cynicism, called upon voters to boycott THEIR OWN REFERENDUM QUESTION.
Our own referendum question sucks donkeys so bad, the KMT said, you shouldn't even bother voting "Yea" or "Nay".
Irreligious? Oh, I have a few OTHER choice words to describe it. But be that as it may, that should have been a tip-off as to how the KMT would govern if they were restored to power.
Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday accused President Ma Ying-jeou
(馬英九) of incompetency, lashing out at his administration for failing to offer
concrete measures to curb public apprehension over events such as the recent
melamine contamination and the poor performance of the TAIEX.
Now, I've seen a few possible explanations for the governments' poor performance:
1) President Ma Ying-jeou is attempting to create a precedent for a "Queen of England" presidency for Taiwan. Unfortunately for him, he has no Taiwanese model for him to draw upon.
2) The KMT has been out of power for 8 years, and its governing skills are out of practice.
Without disagreeing with point #1, I'd like to elaborate a little upon point #2. While it's true that the KMT lost control over the executive for the last 8 years, it DID have effective working control over the legislative branch over the same time frame. So how did it spend its time? Did the KMT spend the last 8 years KEEPING ITS GOVERNING SKILLS SHARP by actually passing into law legislative proposals that would benefit Taiwan?
Or did it DULL THAT EDGE by spending those 8 years engaged only in pointless, petty obstructionism?*
I've seen the China Post sneer at former President Chen Shui-bian's record, asking what it was that Chen accomplished over the last 8 years. I can think of a few things**, but let me turn the question around. What did the KMT-dominated LEGISLATURE accomplish in the last 8 years? They had a majority, after all. Their votes were law -- Taiwanese presidents have no veto power.
Once more, what legislative successes can KMT lawmakers boast about on THEIR resumes? Hmm? Anyone? Anyone? I'm waiting . . .
A former marathon winner comes out of a long retirement for a big race. He thinks he's got a good chance to win again. But does he?
Not if he's spent the last 8 years scarfing down doughnuts and grousing about how easy kids today have got it. If he hasn't spent enough time in training, maintaining his skills, our runner's fans are in for a major disappointment. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- * Speaking of pointless, petty obstructionism, here's a case in point:
The Presidential Office is thankful that the US government sent an official
notification on Friday to Congress on the sale of five major packages of
weaponry to Taiwan, officials said yesterday, adding that the move signaled a
new era of mutual trust between Taiwan and the US.
“The notification of
the US government put an end to the turbulence of the past eight years and
rebuilds mutual trust between the US and Taiwan,” Presidential Office Spokesman
Wang Yu-chih (王郁琦) said yesterday.
Uh-uh -- you don't get off that easy, Mr. Wang. Your boss, President Ma Ying-jeou, spent TWO YEARS boycotting those arms packages when he was in opposition. As KMT chairman, Ma blocked 'em 60 times in the legislature. Nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet . . . Sixty times. You can't pawn THAT off on the former president, buddy.
In the end, Ma relented on the special arms bill. By that time however, America viewed him and the KMT as fundamentally untrustworthy. And the U.S. put the weapons sale on hold.
And so it was that the KMT was reduced to begging -- BEGGING! -- for that which it had so casually boycotted and dismissed as unnecessary just a few months earlier:
The United States could see its credibility among Taiwanese at stake if it fails to approve a pending Taiwan arms procurement package . . . [Taiwanese] Defense Minister Chen Chao-min said Monday.
Please, please, please, sell us these weapons. 'Cause if you don't, uh . . . you'll, you'll . . . look really bad. Really, REALLY bad . . . The passive-aggressive approach -- yeah, that's the ticket!
As for the credibility of the Ma Ying-jeou administration, we'll escape unscathed. Why, we're a lean, mean, governin' machine.
With the 24% approval rating to prove it.
** At the top of my head, Chen's accomplishments as president include the de-politicization of Taiwan's military, increased democritization (via a new referendum law) and his partially-successful attempts to de-normalize Taiwanese worship of former dictators Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo.
Set against that record are troubling charges of corruption and money-laundering. Which if proven true, make his presidency a very mixed bag.
Just finished tossing out a Moon cake leftover from the Midautumn Festival, as well as some old powdered milk and soda crackers. Figure that's about a $150 NT loss, but ya do what ya gotta do if you want to avoid ingesting the chemical precursor for whiteboard resin.
Got me to thinking, though. Suppose everybody in Taiwan is doing as I am. And let's be conservative: they each toss out $25 NT worth of bread or cookies or what have you. Times 23 million people -- that's $575 million NT, or about $20 million U.S. dollars. Add to that losses local businesses are taking due to stock they've had to pull from the shelves. And the losses they're taking because people are too afraid to buy ANY milk-based products, because they can't be certain of the provenance.
I STILL haven't seen estimates of the latter two yet, and I'm reluctant to hazard a guess. Must be mucho dinero, though.
Say, does anybody remember the Senkaku Island incident earlier this year? Back in June, a Taiwanese recreational fishing boat strayed (either
unintentionally or deliberately) into Japanese waters and was rammed by
a Japanese coast guard vessel. In short order, Taiwan's ambassador was
recalled, threats of war darkly uttered, demands for apologies and
After a brief standoff, the Japanese government made an apology and paid reparations.
My point is, that all that fuss was made over ONE fishing boat. One. One boat that was worth a heckuva lot less than what Taiwan's economy has recently lost due to dairy products imported from China. So where are the recalls of Taiwan's negotiators? The threats of war? The demands for apologies and reparations? *
Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) said yesterday
that the foundation would definitely “communicate” with Beijing if the Mainland
Affairs Council (MAC) asked the foundation to seek an apology from China over
the tainted milk scandal.
When asked whether he would ask his Chinese
counterpart — Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS)
Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) — to apologize or bring up the issue of compensation
when he visits Taiwan later this month or early next month, Chiang said he would
“exchange views with Chen on issues placed on the agenda.” [emphasis added]
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) did not denigrate the country’s sovereignty or move
toward de-Taiwanization by describing Taiwan as a region, Presidential Office
spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said on Monday.
Wang said Ma did not create the term “Taiwan region” to blur the
country’s sovereignty, saying that Ma’s new characterization of the cross-strait
relationship as one between the “Taiwan region” and the “mainland region” was in
accordance with the Republic of China (Taiwan) Constitution.
Based on the
constitutional framework, both regions are part of the Republic of China’s (ROC)
territory, but only the “Taiwan region” is under the rule of the ROC, Wang said.
Ah yes, the old constitution dodge. But if it's constitutionally kosher to describe Taiwan as being a part of the Republic of China, then why does the Taiwanese government under the KMT get so indignant when Taiwan is referred to as being part of China?
Doesn't the government believe in its own "1992 Consensus" rhetoric? After all, by the KMT's own interpretation of the supposed consensus, "China" and "Republic of China" are INTERCHANGEABLE terms!
Or, to put it in somewhat more mathematically:
Taiwan, Republic of China* ----- constitutionally OK Republic of China = China ------- constitutionally OK; in line with the "1992 Consensus" ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Substituting "China" for "Republic of China" then gives us:
Taiwan, China ---------------------- Unacceptable! says Taiwan's government