With songs, chants, speeches and clashes, tens of thousands of people demonstrated at several locations near the Presidential Office Building on Double Ten National Day yesterday, calling on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to step down.
While different groups of demonstrators had different appeals — ranging from the fate of the country’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), to the government’s handling of an improper lobbying case allegedly involving major political figures — the call for Ma to step down was the common theme.
“A president who violates the Constitution like Ma should be ashamed of hosting a national day celebration,” said Dennis Wei (魏揚), a National Tsing Hua University graduate student and a member of a student group called “Black Island National Youth Front,” sitting in front of a line of police officers in front of the Presidential Office Building.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
He was referring to the Special Investigation Division’s alleged illegal monitoring of lawmakers’ telephones as well as Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming’s (黃世銘) report to the president on information gathered through wiretap.
Wei also accused the government of favoring large corporates by signing the cross-strait service trade pact and disregarding the suffering of ordinary people.
“The ruling elite headed by Ma and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) has lost its legitimacy and should therefore step down right away,” he said.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
Although the demonstration in front of the Presidential Office was peaceful, student protesters and the police engaged in serious clashes earlier in the morning when the police insisted that protesters remove a truck carrying loudspeakers, leaving several protesters and officers injured.
At a separate setting, a crowd of protesters rallied outside the Legislative Yuan at a demonstration organized by activist group Citizen 1985, calling for revisions of the Referendum Act (公民投票法), the Election and Recall Act for Public Servants (公職人員選舉罷免法), and regulations on election of legislators at-large to lower thresholds for public participation in the nation’s politics.
“When politicians in a democracy no longer listen to the people, we have the right to express our opinions through referendums, but referendums in this country have become a tool for large political parties. The threshold is so high that the only national referendums that ever made it to poll stations were those proposed by the Democratic Progressive Party, the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] and former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁),” said Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica. “Of course the law needs to be amended.”
It is equally difficult for voters to recall elected officials, as the law also prohibits campaigns for a recall, he added.
“Politicians are allowed to launch election campaigns, but the people are prohibited from launching a recall campaign,” Huang said. “Do the politicians all think we the people are so stupid?”
At the rally, a white flag with a “citizen’s eye” on it was raised as a symbolic gesture to signify that people should take back the sovereignty of the citizenry.
Hu Shih-ho (胡世和), uncle of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) who allegedly died from abuse while serving in military, also showed up at the rally, panning the government for its slow probe into the death of his nephew despite Ma’s promises.
“Ma’s approval rating is now a little more than 9 percent, that means the people no longer trust him. Shouldn’t we take the power back from him?” Hu asked.
The crowd responded with a loud “yes.”
Later in the afternoon, the crowd moved to Liberty Square, where small forums were held to discuss various public issues.
Citizen 1985 said the rally drew 60,000 people, while police put the peak number at 10,000.
Separately, another group of protesters gathered outside the legislature, urging the government to hear the people’s call to abandon the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project, which the anti-nuclear activists said is a huge waste of taxpayers’ money and has been plagued by mishaps that could jeopardize public safety.
Additional reporting by CNA
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations