Thousands of retired and active civil servants, public-school teachers and military personnel took to the streets in Taipei yesterday, demanding that the government abstain from targeting them in planned pension reforms.
In the first massive demonstration since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May, protesters spilled from Ketagalan Boulevard onto Zhongshan S Road and several other roads blocks away, with the Taipei Police Department estimating that about 117,000 attended, while organizers claimed there were more than 250,000 participants.
The size of the crowd was swelled by an official mobilization by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), with KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) pledging to “stand with” the protesters.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
While Hung did not take to the stage, she greeted the leaders of one line of former military personnel with flowers and flags, with participants having photographs taken with her.
The KMT also set up several “gas stations” — a play on the Mandarin phrase “add oil,” an expression of encouragement — along march routes, handing out water and Republic of China (ROC) flags.
“Reform absolutely should not be carried out by putting labels on people or pitting generations against each other,” she said, adding that her party had pushed for pension reforms under former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) while the DPP had stalled the efforts in the legislature.
Former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) marched in his capacity as a former army general, while several KMT legislators and city councilors also took part.
The demonstration began yesterday afternoon with retired military personnel gathering outside Daan Forest Park (大安森林公園) and National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall before marching to the rally site on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building, walking in formation, waving large ROC flags and singing military anthems.
Retired civil servants, police officers and firefighters gathered at the 228 Peace Memorial Park before walking to Ketagalan Boulevard, while retired public-school teachers converged at National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall’s Liberty Square.
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
Protesters shouted slogans opposing “stigmatization” and demanding “dignity,” with the Alliance for Monitoring Pension Reform — which organized the march — calling for fiscal reforms and fund management improvements to offset some of the need for cuts, while also demanding that any changes to benefits and contribution formulas not be applied retroactively.
Tsai has asked the Presidential Office’s National Pension Reform Committee to draft a consensus pension reform plan, with Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億), the deputy convener and executive director of the committee, pledging to resign if a plan is not drafted and submitted to the Legislative Yuan by May next year.
Some protesters expressed distrust of Tsai’s push for reforms.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
“We are afraid of pension reform, because the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is now in full control,” said a woman surnamed Chan (詹), who said she is a former civil servant living in Taichung. “Without the KMT’s participation, there is no way to know what the final plan will look like beforehand. Waiting until a plan is announced would be too late. We have to step forward now before anything is finalized.”
Chan said that the government’s focus on discussions over relative “replacement ratios” between salaries and pensions for public and private-sector employees was unreasonable because of the different nature of the systems.
“We had to go through testing before being hired and that door is always open,” she said. “So if you think we have better treatment, you can always take the test yourself.”
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
“We feel that fiscal reform should be comprehensive and not just targeted at us,” said Kuo Wen-ching (郭文進), a retired soldier, who called for the government to raise taxes on corporations instead of trying to “hunt down” former government employees.
He also rejected remarks by Tsai on Friday that former military personnel had “special circumstances” that warranted their being treated differently as part of pension reform, accusing her of trying to divide former government employees while remaining “coy” about the nature of cuts.
According to the committee, there are 13 pension programs in effect in Taiwan.
The average monthly pension is NT$49,379 for military personnel, NT$56,383 for civil servants, NT$68,025 for public-school teachers, NT$17,223 for private-school teachers, NT$16,179 for employees covered by labor insurance, NT$7,256 for farmers and NT$3,628 for workers covered by general public insurance, it said.
Low contributions coupled with the nation’s aging population have put most of the funds on course for bankruptcy within two decades, with Minister of Civil Service Chou Hung-hsien (周弘憲) last week saying that pension contributions by civil servants, military personnel and teachers would have to be tripled for the funds to be sustainable over the next 50 years at current payment levels.
At a news conference at the Executive Yuan later yesterday, Lin said the committee would convene pension reforms meetings next month and in November across the nation before a national conference in January or February next year.
Additional reporting by CNA
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
The military last week sent “no small number” of Marine Corps officers to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Island, 東沙群島) following reports of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drill targeting the islands scheduled for this month. In an interview with Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Magazine published on Saturday last week, PLA National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光) confirmed that the Chinese army was planning to stage a simulated invasion of the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea this month. The islands comprise three atolls, with Pratas Island, at 1.74km2, being the largest. They lie southwest of Taiwan proper in the South