Sat, Oct 11, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Nation celebrates amid tight security

HAPPY BIRTHDAY The KMT administration expanded the annual celebrations, filling them with patriotic songs as tens of thousands of overseas Taiwanese returned home

By Mo Yan-Chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

A young performer waits behind the scenes before dancing at the national day celebrations at the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: WALLY SANTANA, AP

“Happy Birthday, Republic of China (ROC)” was displayed in red, white and blue colors on Ketagalan Boulevard as thousands of students lifted the curtain on the Double Ten national day celebrations yesterday.

The government expanded the scope of the celebrations this year after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regained power in May, filling the ceremony with patriotic songs, dances and parades and attracting tens of thousands of overseas Taiwanese to return to the country and celebrate the nation’s birthday.

The Presidential Office and the nearby area were decorated in red with placards reading “Celebrating the birthday of the ROC” hung on the facade, displaying the nation’s official name again on Double Ten day after the former Democratic Progressive Party government decorated the building with slogans promoting Taiwan’s bid to join the UN last year.

Before President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) addressed the ceremony, 62-year-old actor Johnny Lin (林宗仁), whose performance in the box-office hit Cape No. 7 (海角七號) as “Uncle Mao” made him a star, won a large round of applause from the audience as he played the moon guitar, a four-stringed musical instrument, and lightened the mood by swapping jokes with the other performers.

Ma arrived with first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) shortly after 10am, made a speech and led the participating guests in the chants “Long live Taiwan Democracy” and “Long live the ROC.”

Seven attack aircraft from the Air Force’s Thunder Tiger aerobatic team flew over the Presidential Office following Ma’s speech, closely followed by a motorcycle fleet of military police saluting the president.

Pan-blue heavyweights, including KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) and former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), attended the ceremony, while DPP politicians were absent.

A small group of protesters from the anti-Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) campaign, led by Chinese Unity Promotion Party chairman Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰), held a small-scale demonstration on Hengyang Road, urging Ma to finish the investigation into the former president and his family members’ alleged money-laundering and to imprison Chen as soon as possible.

“Toughen up, President Ma. Put Chen Shui-bian in jail,” they shouted.

To prevent any protests and clashes, thousands of police were deployed around the area yesterday, with tight security checks at every intersection surrounding the Presidential Office. The strict measures were not appreciated by everyone.

“It’s our country’s birthday, so why can’t the people go to the ceremony and celebrate national day as well?” a middle-age man, who was stopped outside the ceremony, shouted at police.

The three-hour ceremony proceeded smoothly under clear skies, but several guards and students fainted because of the heat.

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