Tens of thousands of people held a series of protests nationwide yesterday calling on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to step down over a variety of issues, from his failed promises and infringement of the Constitution in a widening wiretap controversy, to a government lawsuit against laid-off workers.
The protests began near the heavily protected presidential residence, where several hundred people, most wearing white, gathered for a protest.
“This is only the beginning of your misery rather than the end of the anti-Ma movement, Mr Ma, because we will be shadowing you wherever you may go,” Shen Chih-lin (沈志霖), spokesperson of the Alliance of Civil Action Against Ma Ying-jeou told reporters.
Protesters gathered hundreds of meters away from the presidential residence on Chongching S Road Sec. 2 and began the rally at 9:29am. The time signified yesterday’s date, the day the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was supposed to hold its party congress.
The congress was postponed for security reasons as various civic groups had planned protests in the wake of a wiretapping scandal and political turmoil that have shocked the nation.
The alliance was forced to cancel its original protest after Ma tried to avoid the crowds by changing his itinerary over the past few days, Shen said, adding that this was why the alliance came up with the “stroll around the presidential residence” idea since “Ma has to go home.”
Chanting “Down with Ma” and “Ma steps down, bright future for Taiwan,” the protesters began moving toward the presidential residence at about 10am, but were unable to go past the intersection of Chongching S Road and Aiguo W Road.
Police had cleared the area around the residence overnight and protected the compound with barricades and hundreds of officers.
Speaking to the protesters, Shen accused Ma of betraying almost all of his campaign pledges and criticized the president for hiding from the people during the past week.
Organizers distributed dismissal letters to protesters and asked them to sign and mail the letters to the Presidential Office as an expression of their anger against Ma.
Award-winning writer Neil Peng (馮光遠), one of the celebrity speakers, told the protesters that while Ma had pledged an end to illegal wiretapping when he took office, the public were left with “no hope” that this would happen.
National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) urged Ma to follow his own advice by stepping down. Ma, whose approval rating has plummeted to as low as 9.2 percent, asked former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to resign in 2007, when Chen had a approval rating of 18 percent.
Unable to move closer to the residence, the organizers asked the protesters to disperse and go home at about 11am, about 30 minutes after police had warned them about the illegal assembly.
Hundreds of people who refused to leave began circling the compound after the organizers left the scene. While no physical confrontations occurred, some protesters briefly engaged in arguments with the police.
Early in the afternoon hundreds of people took part in a running event mocking Ma and the KMT for cancelling the party congress, while vowing to launch flash mob shoe-throwing protests.
“Ma Ying-jeou, don’t run away!” The crowd shouted as a group of runners wearing masks with Ma’s face departed from National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, followed by another group holding shoes.