Fri, Nov 07, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Tensions mount in the capital

DIRTY TRICK? Protesters were incensed when the Presidential Office brought the meeting between Ma and Chen forward to 11am to avoid the opposition rally

By Rich Chang, Meggie Lu And Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

A family walks past a group of police in downtown Taipei after elementary school got out at noon yesterday.

PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets close to the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday to protest against the meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), before later moving on to the Grand Hotel where they continued the protests through the evening.

The “Yellow Ribbon Siege” organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was scheduled to begin at 1pm, with protesters walking to the Taipei Guest House on Ketagalan Boulevard and besieging the Boai District (博愛), where Chen was set to meet Ma at 4:30 pm.

But when news filtered through that the government had brought the meeting forward to 11am, DPP legislators and protesters rushed to gather on Zhongshan S Road (中山南路) in front of Jingfumen (景福門), where a wall of police stood waiting to block the protest.

DPP legislators Chang Hua-kuan (張花冠), Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) Yu Tien (余天), Hsieh Ling (薛凌) and other protesters clashed with police as they tried to advance toward the Taipei Guest House, where the meeting was being held.

In the resulting scuffles, Wong and Hsieh were injured. Wong was sent to the nearby National Taiwan University Hospital for medical treatment, where she later told reporters she had a fractured left arm, which had required surgery.

DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), former premiers Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Yu Shyi-kun and other DPP legislators arrived and sat in front of the police blockade, waiting for the public to arrive at the rally.

At 12:40pm, Tsai, Lu and the DPP legislators led the public in a series of chants, including “Taiwan, China, one country on each side,” “Ma Ying-jeou, step down,” “Ma Ying-jeou, stop selling out Taiwan” and “Taiwan is our country.”

The protesters walked down Xuzhou Road, Linsen S Road and Renai Road to join the protest at Jingfumen, where DPP politicians made speeches to the crowd.

Former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told the crowd: “Ma has said that Taiwan is a sovereign state and that he and his party agree on ‘one China, with each side having its own interpretation.’ So why didn’t he mention this today in his meeting with Chen?”

Ma did not dare to confront China, so he belittled his own country, Su said.

Tsai said Ma was ignoring the voice of the people and that Ma’s move meant the DPP had scored a victory.

Tsai called for the demonstrators to act peacefully and reasonably “because we still a have long way to go.”

Lu said the protests showed that Beijing had miscalculated the political situation and underestimated the will of the Taiwanese.

“Ma has made big concessions to China and for Chen’s visit he has ordered the police to stop Chen from hearing the real voice of the people. Then he said the opposition party leader should take responsibility for the incident at the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei and other clashes that have occurred during today’s rally,” Tsai said.

“Is he fit to be our president?” Tsai asked.

“Ma must take full responsibility for the incidents,” Tsai said, adding that “an authoritarian government that uses violence against its own people” must take responsibility.

“It is the government that has forced people to take to the streets,” she said. “This is only the beginning and we will see each other on the streets again soon.”

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