Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: A day of national embarrassment

So the campaign initiated by former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) to depose the president conducted its second "siege" protest yesterday and was successful in surrounding the Presidential Office complex during the Double Ten National Day celebrations.

Thankfully the day, with the exception of a couple of small incidents, was peaceful.

But apart from proving that a few weeks' notice, excessive media coverage and a national holiday is all anyone needs to mobilize more than 100,000 people, what else did yesterday's actions achieve?

The main purpose was to keep the anti-Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) campaign alive, because since the first "siege" of the Presidential Office on Sept. 15 it has slowly been running out of steam. After the idea for a strike proved unpopular, Shih and his campaign managers have been grasping at straws for ideas to keep the momentum going.

The nationwide "tour" kept the campaign in the headlines until yesterday, presenting the red-clad protesters with the perfect opportunity to make a scene, as the president would be making a high-profile, public appearance.

That so many people would take part in the protest was never in doubt, because as well as being a national holiday, northern Taiwan remains a bastion of pan-blue support and it is that support -- both in numbers of people and cash -- that has kept the protest going much longer than it deserves.

However, Double Ten National Day -- which marks the Wuchang Uprising in 1911 and serves as a symbolic proxy for the creation of the Republic of China -- is a day that celebrates the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and all that it stands for. The decision by pan-blue lawmakers and their supporters, who make up the bulk of Shih's red army, to disrespect their precious day would have had China's leaders rubbing their hands in glee, assuming they have any understanding of what is going on.

By making a mockery of the National Day celebrations, the Shih campaign is playing directly into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party and its plans to eradicate Taiwan in the international arena -- many foreign VIPs and guests canceled their attendance at the celebrations in fear of what might happen. Yesterday's skylarking will further motivate the pan-blue camp to block reform and sow discord within the legislature while blaming the president, when in fact the legislature's problems have little to do with him and much more to do with contempt for the political system as a whole.

It was predictable that certain pan-blue lawmakers would disrupt the president's speech, because in this nation's political theater, anyone who plays up is guaranteed attention thanks to the vacuous media.

But their actions also did a disservice to the chronically ambiguous Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who presented an image of moderation throughout the whole episode. Their behavior, along with the reactions of their pan-green counterparts, succeeded only in embarrassing themselves.

Maybe they believed, as pro-China media outlets have suggested, that the world would see how unhappy they are with their president. Indeed, the protest leaders said that one of the aims of yesterday's "siege" was to spread the message around the globe. But a glance at CNN would tell them that the world doesn't care one little bit about the current bout of Chen-hatred. There are much more important things going on.

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