Pension reform protesters yesterday claimed victory after a substantive review of the proposed bill was postponed, even as a dramatic thinning of ranks raised questions about their ability to mobilize.
Several hundred demonstrators marched on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) headquarters in Taipei for a brief victory rally after DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), coconvener of the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, announced that the pension reform bills review would be postponed until two public hearings are held next week.
“This result is the fruit of all our hard work today,” National Federation of Teachers’ Unions director-general Huang Yao-nan (黃耀南) said, taking credit for the DPP’s backing away from a rumored attempt to force a quick “whole package” vote instead of a line-by-line review.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
Plans to hold public hearings are “acceptable for the time being,” Huang said, promising to reignite a “siege” around the Legislative Yuan when substantive review begins.
The afternoon march on the DPP’s headquarters concluded a marathon protest that saw protesters briefly occupy the Taipei Railway Station’s lobby before camping overnight outside the Legislative Yuan compound.
Protesters yesterday morning attempted to blockade checkpoints through the barricades surrounding the legislative complex, in an unsuccessful bid to prevent lawmakers from entering and starting the review.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Time
While DPP members of the committee reportedly camped out in the committee room overnight, numerous other lawmakers and staff members ran into trouble entering the legislative complex.
Changhua County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) and Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) were among several local government heads who met resistance, fighting their way in to participate in a hearing on infrastructure funding.
New Power Party caucus convener Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) was splashed with water and his overcoat torn off by demonstrators, while Taipei Deputy Mayor Charles Lin (林欽榮) ended up with a gash on his hand after being pushed into a barbed wire barricade.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
Protesters also sought to prevent reporters from news outlets perceived as “unfriendly” from entering the complex, with one man seen taking a hammer to the windshield of a van belonging to SET-TV (三立電視).
“We want to go in to present a petition, but the police will not let us in,” Yunlin County Civil Servant Association president Chen Liang-liang (陳亮良) said, as a row of association members linked arms in front of police officers lining a side entrance.
“Anyone who wants to go in needs to get in line, because we were here first,” he said.
“We were not the ones who sealed off roads and entrances — but we are here to help police seal them off completely,” National Civil Servant Association president Harry Lee (李來希) said, calling DPP legislators “rats” for allegedly entering through underground passages connected to the Control Yuan.
Some protesters moved to block the Control Yuan’s entrances, but, undermanned and poorly organized, they left numerous holes in their blockade, with legislative staffers getting in through a side entrance on Qingdao Road, which was left undefended after protesters rushed to other checkpoints.
“Because the police kept opening up new temporary checkpoints, we were not able to maintain an effective blockade, but we did succeed in turning the heat up on the DPP,” Huang said.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
“Our numbers today are not important. What is important is we have succeeded in achieving our interim objective,” he said.
Organizers repeatedly urged participants to spread the word about yesterday’s protest after turnout dropped sharply relative to a massive demonstration last month, which saw thousands of retired policemen and firefighters pack the streets around the Legislative Yuan, breaking through police barriers and blocking a crucial traffic intersection before being abandoned by Lee and other leaders in face of police pressure.
The organizers’ orders to concentrate along Jinan Road following the opening of yesterday’s committee meeting were largely ignored by demonstrators, some of whom continued to man stations outside entrances and mill around surrounding streets long after their leaders sounded the retreat.
“Numbers are low because today’s mobilization order was hastily issued, and our targeted objective was not as clear as before,” National Federation of Education Unions vice president Liu Ya-ping (劉亞平) said, blaming the technical nature of opposing the “whole package” committee review of the reforms for the low turnout.
Individual protesters gave a different perspective.
“What can you do — we are old and tired after the long fight,” said one retired teacher, surnamed Chen (陳), when asked about the low turnout.
“We are just trying to make sure our opposition gets expressed,” said another retired teacher, surnamed Wang (王), adding that many people doubt the protests would succeed in forcing pension reform changes.
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