Mon, Nov 18, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Workers stage annual Autumn Struggle protest

TAKE A LEFT TURN:Protesters said government policies to stave off recession always mean tax cuts for the wealthy, land expropriation and loosening labor regulations

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Demonstrators display placards in a protest against government policies in Taipei yesterday. Protesters demonstrated against policies which they say are responsible for the widening gap between the rich and poor.

Photo: Mandy Cheng, AFP

More than 1,000 people took to the streets to vent their anger toward the government in the annual Autumn Struggle rally yesterday in Taipei, accusing the government of favoring capitalists, while disregarding the suffering of ordinary people.

“Citizens take a left turn, return the nation to the people,” the crowd chanted at the gathering point outside The Palace, a luxury high-rise apartment complex in Taipei, where many celebrities and business leaders live.

“We’ve chosen to begin our march from outside The Palace, because we want to show how ironic it is that we’re living in the same country, yet those who are living within and outside the fence are living in two different worlds,” Chang Chien-kuo (常建國), a member of the Raged Citizens Act Now who led the demonstration, told the crowd. “Apparently, the government stands with those living within the fence, and ignores the suffering of us, who could never afford to live inside.”

While the government repeatedly declares that it is implementing policies to save the country from economic recession, those policies are always tax cuts for the rich, assisting corporations to seize private lands and further loosening labor regulations, Chang said.

“Basically, the government’s idea of ‘reviving the economy’ is that they will feed beef to the rich, and we should stay down, hoping that they may drop something from above so that we may be able to eat,” he said.

Taipei City Confederation of Trade Unions president Chiang Wan-chin (蔣萬金), agreed, saying that labor rights activists are not opposed to the rich, but they are opposed to capitalists who become rich by repressing workers.

“Reviving the economy should mean reviving the economy for all, not for only a few,” Chiang said. “The government is now pushing for free economic zones, but this will only make it worse for Taiwanese workers, as it will allow capitalists to import cheap foreign workers.”

Chiang went on to criticize the government for encouraging businesses to hire temporary workers, especially when the Council of Labor Affairs is proposing legislation on temporary workers.

“We condemn corporations for overlooking workers’ rights by using a large number of temporary workers, and it’s even more upsetting that the government is taking the lead in hiring temporary workers,” Chiang said.

The demonstrators placed pictures of 10 government and business leaders — including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), Council of Labor Affairs Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉), Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) and Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) — into a frying pan filled with cooking oil, symbolizing the traditional belief that evil people may be fried in hell after death.

The protesters marched peacefully from The Palace to the Ministry of Finance, with representatives from different groups — including urban renewal victims, environmentalists, gender rights activists, foreign workers and teachers’ unions — each speaking against the government’s development-minded policies.

Among the marchers were about a dozen firefighters who joined the demonstration for the first time, calling on the government to improve their working conditions.

Yang Shih-wei (楊適瑋), a firefighter in Taipei, said that the firefighting force is severely understaffed, forcing most firefighters to work overtime, and many are not paid for their overtime work.

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