It is inevitable that a mass movement will get pulled in different directions. When former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) launched the "Million Voices Against Corruption" campaign to depose President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), there was a group of people behind the scenes handling strategy. Ho De-fen (賀德芬), a professor emeritus at National Taiwan University, surfaced as the spokeswoman and the campaign's most public face, with more media exposure than Shih himself.
Ho took a soft approach, which didn't sit well with Shih's hawkish "live or die" rhetoric. Her approach had two themes.
The first was keeping a distance from violence and gangsters. After former DPP legislator Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰) assaulted Contemporary Monthly editor-in-chief Chin Heng-wei (金恆偉) on the talk show The People Talk on Aug. 24, Ho barred Lin and his team, which consisted of bodyguards organized to protect Shih during the sit-in.
The second was avoiding affiliation with any political party. This would create a campaign for "everyone." This approach was similar to that of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
Not long after this, however, Ho lost her post as spokeswoman. Her replacement, Jerry Fan (范可欽), gave Lin and his team a hero's welcome. It was then that the "red army" was properly organized.
The protesters may have been "red," but they had no reason to reject "blue," and so the pan-blue camp joined the campaign.
Ho later said that it was impossible to get rid of People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), and that his presence embarrassed Ma, who had showed up at the sit-in on behalf of the KMT and provided breakfast for the protesters.
After Ho's approach was rejected, the "red terror" began. Red represents rage, revolution, anti-Chen sentiment (in this case) and, in the minds of some, the Chinese Communist Party. This could not be openly stated, however, lest a sizeable number of protesters object to this and abandon the campaign.
And so the red tide rolled over Taipei, carrying the message "join or perish." This served to mobilize pan-green-camp supporters, and was also a wake-up call to the US.
Ho's approach might have been too soft for some, but if it had been allowed to continue, it might have struck a chord with more people. Instead, the anti-Chen campaign has now turned into a stand-off between red and green. The red tide has generated a powerful backlash.
The Sept. 15 "siege" of the Presidential Office district ended without major incident, thanks to the self-restraint of most of the participants and the work of the police. But some politicians were unhappy with this and urged "constant revolution," a million-strong car demonstration and other radical measures to paralyze Taiwan and incite violence.
On Monday, Shih suddenly canceled the more radical plans, but in the evening there were violent clashes in Kaohsiung. Did Shih plan this but back off at the last moment, or did the protesters refuse to obey Shih's orders?
If Shih has backed away from a radical stance, then those who pushed for radical action should have been dismissed and Ho reinstated. After Ho was prevented from participating, headquarters issued a statement saying that its next move would be to "lay siege to the nation."