Shouting slogans and holding up banners and placards, tens of thousands of protesters yesterday afternoon packed arterial streets in Taipei and Kaohsiung to vent their anger at President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) China-friendly policies, which they say have compromised Taiwan’s sovereignty.
“Say No to China! Say Yes to Taiwan!” “One China market, Go Away!” protesters young and old shouted as they marched and pumped their fists in the air.
Some wore yellow headbands reading “Don’t Lean Toward China, Safeguard Sovereignty!” and “We want a referendum on the ECFA [economic cooperation framework agreement].” Others wore T-shirts that accused Ma of “selling Taiwan” to China and carried props portraying Ma as a devil.
Since Ma’s inauguration on May 20 last year, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have held three rounds of talks and signed a series of agreements that led to regular direct flights across the Strait and an influx of Chinese tourists.
Ma said the flow of Chinese visitors to Taiwan — from a mere trickle to more than 3,000 a day — has helped Taiwan’s sagging economy.
While some have welcomed the economic gains and easing of cross-strait tensions, others worry that Taiwan is moving too close to China because Beijing’s ultimate goal is the unification of Taiwan with China.
“Taiwan and China are different countries and can’t be united,” said Wang Chia-ping, 32, who traveled six hours from the south to take part in the rally in Taipei.
Some demonstrators accused Ma of not being transparent about Taiwan’s relations with Beijing and others said he has mishandled the economy, with the unemployment rate now at a record-high of 5.8 percent, while exports have fallen sharply amid the global recession.
“I’m out of work. We don’t have jobs. We’re unemployed,” 55-year-old protester Chen Chung-hua said. “So what are we going to do?”
In Taipei, protesters began marching at 3pm from four different rallying points — Wanhua Train Station in Wanhua District (萬華), the main entrance at National Taiwan University, the Dinghao Square on Zhongxiao E Road and the Zhongshan Soccer Stadium — before converging on Ketagalan Boulevard.
As Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) led a group of protesters by the Ministry of Economic Affairs building, they released black balloons representing their opposition to the introduction of Chinese “black-hearted” products in Taiwan.
Another group, led by former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), beat a huge balloon horse — wearing the red Chinese flag — with plastic baseball bats as they walked by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) headquarters on Bade Road.
The third group, led by former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), threw paper planes as they walked by the Council of Labor Affairs building, a symbol of rising unemployment.
The fourth group, led by former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), dumped Chinese agricultural products from a trunk in front of the Council of Agriculture to express public anger over the impact of Chinese “black-hearted” products on Taiwan’s agricultural sector.
“We are here to say no to Ma Ying-jeou,” Tsai addressed the crowd from the stage set up in front of the Presidential Office after the groups assembled on Ketagalan Boulevard. “Ma gambles away Taiwan’s sovereignty in exchange for short-term economic interests from China … We will not allow Taiwan’s destiny and future to be decided by China.”