President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was yesterday heckled by people unhappy with last year’s energy price increases, as he handed out red envelopes containing NT$1 each to well-wishers on Lunar New Year’s Day at Taipei’s Xingtian Temple (行天宮).
A woman held up a banner to protest against the increases in fuel, electricity and retail prices, while a man, who said he wanted to air his grievance “face-to-face” while accepting the red envelope from Ma, was taken away by a presidential security guard when he shouted Ma’s name.
“People are unemployed. It’s pointless [for Ma] to hand out red envelopes here,” the man yelled as he was being dragged away.
Shortly after the incident, the Presidential Office released a statement saying the protests were staged by a group of people demanding that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) be allowed to spend the Lunar New Year holiday at home.
Chen, who is serving an 18-and-a-half-year sentence for corruption, has been hospitalized for treatment of various complications.
The statement expressed regret over the incident and urged select groups of people to exercise self-restraint and refrain from affecting the festive spirit as people pick up their red envelopes.
In a speech at the Xingtian Temple, Ma apologized for the tough time that the nation went through last year and expressed confidence that the economy will improve this year.
On Saturday, in his Lunar New Year’s Eve address, Ma said he hoped that the economy would continue to improve, that the employment rate would pick up, that local industries would improve and that social harmony would reign as Taiwanese face new challenges in a new era.
“Taiwan has the most hard-working and the most kindhearted people,” Ma said, adding that he believed as long as people support and encourage each other, “there will be no difficulty that we cannot overcome.”
Separately yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) celebrated the Lunar New Year by visiting a number of temples and handing out red envelopes to wish people good luck and prosperity.