Sat, Dec 02, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Campaign targets premier with ‘Merit Yuan’ stickers

By Stacy Hsu and Huang Chien-hao  /  Staff reporters

A sticker that reads “Merit Yuan” covers the Chinese characters for “Executive Yuan” at a bus stop near the Executive Yuan compound in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Huang Chien-hao, Taipei Times

A coalition of young campaigners has launched a movement to cover street signs for the Executive Yuan in Taipei with stickers that read: “Merit Yuan (功德院),” a sarcastic reference to Premier William Lai’s (賴清德) perceived dismissal of unreasonable working conditions for certain professions.

The movement was initiated by dozens of labor and student groups from universities including National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, Fu Jen Catholic University, Soochow University and National Central University.

It is believed to have begun on Thursday evening, when campaigners affixed the stickers to street signs near the Executive Yuan compound, as well as signs that contain the words “Executive Yuan” at bus stops and MRT stations.

The initiators yesterday said in a joint statement that the movement was launched to “rectify” the name of the Executive Yuan to align it with its current objectives, which are to provide a cheap labor force that works long hours and to make Taiwan a “paradise of overwork.”

“In the face of social problems, the government, instead of looking for solutions, has encouraged people to adjust their mindset and consider their unjust treatment as a way to earn ‘spiritual merit,’” the statement said.

They urged the Cabinet to refrain from using religious concepts as a short-term fix to the nation’s systemic problems and to work to ensure better working conditions and a fair distribution of wealth and long-term care resources.

The campaigners were referring to controversial remarks by the premier over the past two months.

In October, Lai dismissed calls for the task of capturing bees and snakes to be reassigned from firefighters to the Council of Agriculture, which would allow firefighters to better focus on handling fires, saying that duty can help them earn spiritual merit.

He used the phrase again last month, when he urged caregivers to look past their low salaries and treat their jobs as a way to earn spiritual merit.

To expand its reach, the movement’s initiators yesterday made the designs for the stickers available to the public and compiled a list of Taipei bus routes that stop at the Executive Yuan compound, calling on the public to join their efforts.

Asked to comment on the movement on the sidelines of the opening ceremony for an exhibition at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, Lai said: “Young people are full of creativity and I am not bothered [by the movement].”

The Taipei Public Transportation Office said the signs at three bus stops had been tampered with, affecting 37 bus routes, but it had removed all stickers as of press time last night.

“Such actions not only make it difficult for passengers to recognize bus stops, they also undermine the public’s right to use public transportation,” the office said, adding that vandalizing bus stop signs and route maps contravene the Copyright Act (著作權法), the Civil Code and the Criminal Code.

Taipei Rapid Transit Corp said it has alerted MRT police, adding that those caught affixing the stickers would be fined NT$1,500, in accordance with the Mass Rapid Transit Act (大眾捷運法).

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