From a traditional military march to a balloon parade, musical performances and a re-enactment of the nation’s history, tens of thousands of Taiwanese and foreigners yesterday experienced a series of unique celebrations for President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration.
Hours before the ceremonies in front of the Presidential Office Building started, nearly 30,000 people had arrived, with some eager to find seats, while others talked with friends and took photographs against the backdrop of the main stage and the building.
A 21-gun salute also drew a large crowd, who surrounded the soldiers to take photographs.
A performance by the joint military marching band started the celebrations at 9am.
Following the band’s performance was a re-enactment of Taiwanese history, from the activities of the Aboriginal inhabitants to the Dutch and Spanish occupation, the Han Chinese migration, Japanese occupation and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime’s authoritarian rule after World War II. A performance about the nation’s democratization followed.
Various artists who have participated in social movements, such as rock band Fire Ex (滅火器), Lin Sheng-xiang (林生祥) and Panai Kusui, performed on a stage erected in front of the building.
Actors depicted campaigners for major political and social movements in Taiwan’s democratization — such as Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who ran a number of dissident magazines and self-immolated in 1989 in protest against government restrictions on the freedom of speech, and the 1990 Wild Lily Student Movement, which helped accelerate the dissolution of the national assembly.
After Tsai and Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) completed the official handover and swearing-in ceremony inside the Presidential Office Building, they walked out to greet the crowd and were saluted by the military band at 11am.
Before Tsai’s inaugural address, a group of Paiwan children, several children’s choirs and Jingmei Girls High School students joined Tsai and Chen in singing the Republic of China national anthem, rearranged to blend in with a traditional Paiwan tune.
“This is not the first time I have attended a presidential inauguration, but the performances today were great. I liked them a lot,” onlooker Lan Cheng-peng (藍正朋) said. “In the past, programs were designed to convey a sense of the authority of the president, but this time, it is more like a festival and you could see that the celebrations were centered around the people, not the political leader.”
While the performances drew many positive reviews, they were not without detractors.
Some rights advocates said that some of the performances showed the popular belief that the arrival of Western religion and influenced helped rid Aborigines of their “boorish and uncultivated” characteristics.
The celebrations ended with the singing of Meilidao (美麗島, Formosa) and a fly-by by the air force’s Thunder Tiger Squadron.
Meilidao, a folk song from the late 1970s, describes how beautiful Taiwan is and how the people’s ancestors are watching over them. The song was banned by the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government after the 1979 anti-government demonstration organized by Formosa magazine, which also became known as the Kaohsiung Incident.