The announcement by the Executive Yuan on Friday night that the nation will have a five-day holiday starting from this Friday to the following Tuesday to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival and Double Ten National Day came as a big surprise to everyone.
But while this piece of news ought to come as a pleasant surprise, unfortunately nothing can escape political spin and the resulting conflict between the pro and anti-Chen Shui-bian (
Both Friday, Oct. 6, and the following Tuesday, Oct. 10, are national holidays. The former, Mid-
Autumn Festival, is one of the most important holidays in Taiwan -- along with the Dragon Boat Festival and Lunar New Year.
Every year, right before and after this holiday, there are massive traffic jams on the nation's highways as southerners living in the capital travel home for one or two nights' rest and recreation.
It just so happens that this year, according to the lunar calendar, the festival falls just three days before Double Ten day on Oct. 10. And two of these intervening days are on the weekend. This leaves Monday, Oct. 9, as the only work day in the five-day period. As many people were planning to take the Monday off anyway, the government decided to make it a holiday.
If the anti-Chen camp was telling the truth about plans to call a one-day national strike on Oct. 9, it obviously took into consideration the fact that most people were planning to take the day off, regardless if they supported the anti-Chen cause. Strategically, this was a good move, as a lot of people would unwillingly or unwittingly become "participants" in the strike.
Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that the executive's last-minute decision to approve flexible leave on Oct. 9 generated charges of conspiracy and political maneuvering. As a result of that decision, civil servants will not have to work on the Monday, but will have to make up the lost time by working the following Saturday, Oct. 14. The decision to take leave on Oct. 9 in the private sector has been left up to individual employers and employees to negotiate.
Those who believe the decision was conspiratorial say that it was designed to neutralize the effect of the anti-Chen strike. There is probably some truth to this, but under the peculiar circumstances of this year's Mid-Autumn Festival and Double Ten day falling so close together, the government has practicality as well as strategy on its side.
Unable to continue with their planned strike on Oct. 9, the organizers of the anti-Chen campaign have now come up with a proposal to have a "micro-strike" on Oct. 15. People have been asked to congregate in different places all over Taiwan -- MRT stations, street corners and so on -- and for 15 minutes chant anti-Chen slogans and make the familiar hand gesture.
The campaign is also continuing with plans to stage a "siege" of the Presidential Office on Double Ten day. So the angry mob still has plenty of things with which to keep itself busy.