Hundreds of people ushered in the new year by attending a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei early yesterday morning.
Even before dawn broke to light up the first day of the year, people flocked to the plaza outside the Presidential Office building to participate in the ceremony, which was attended by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and other senior officials.
However, the ceremony was marred when event hostess and actress Chantel Liu (劉香慈) created a moment of awkwardness by announcing: “President Ma is stepping down (總統正在下台),” as Ma walked down the platform to join the other officials and the crowd to watch the raising of the flag.
A highlight of the ceremony was a 10-minute performance by the Ministry of National Defense Symphony Orchestra and members of the Armed Forces Honor Guard.
Ceremonial guardsmen performed rifle spinning and throwing tricks, accompanied by marching songs performed by the orchestra, and lined up in various formations, including the number “103,” to signify the 103rd year of the Republic of China (ROC).
The main highlight was the singing of the ROC national anthem and raising of the national flag, after which the crowd waved small national flags as they celebrated the start of a new year.
Separately, more than 100 people gathered at Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office building yesterday to raise an anti-nuclear flag in a parallel ceremony held to call for all the nation’s nuclear power plants to be shut down.
Among the crowd were activists who undertook an 84-day-long walk around the nation to promote the anti-nuclear agenda. The participants began their journey on Double Ten National Day in October last year and arrived at Taipei’s Liberty Square on Tuesday night to join an overnight anti-nuclear rally held by various groups and activists.
At the rally, musicians who support the cause gave performances and a documentary about anti-nuclear movements in northeastern Taiwan was screened, along with other antinuclear shorts.
A man surnamed Ho (何) said that about 10 people undertook the 84-day journey to spread the antinuclear message throughout townships across the country, while more than 20 people joined the core group of walkers intermittently.
At the flag-raising ceremony, the activists each held a yellow sign bearing a big radiation warning symbol reading: “No nuke, we don’t need it” on it, as well as a fill-in-the-blank sentence saying: “I love _____ so I am against nuclear power” completed with words such as “family,” “Taiwan” and “Earth,” as they walked toward the boulevard.
Although police prevented the protesters from getting too close to the official flag-raising ceremony, the activists still performed morning exercises, laid out the signs to form a huge radiation warning symbol on the ground and then raised their handmade anti-nuclear flag.
“Taiwan is not facing a power supply shortage, so we not only ask that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant [in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao (貢寮)] be stopped, but also urge that we not risk the danger of allowing the three operational plants to stay online,” said environmentalist Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), who is also the spokesperson for the walking group.
The group said it plans to hold a series of activities on the weekend before the third anniversary of the nuclear meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, in which all members of the public are welcome to join.