Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Ilan County councilors and other party members led a demonstration at the opening of the 2009 Ilan International Rain Festival yesterday against the cancellation of the Ilan International Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival.
The councilors and protesters held up banners that read “Bring back the International Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival” at the opening ceremony site before President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was to speak.
Police announced that the protest was illegal because the protesters had not sought prior permission. A scuffle broke out and police tried to disperse the protesters. The protesters were forced to leave and were unable to protest in front of Ma.
The first Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival was held in 1995 when Yu Shyi-kun of the DPP was the county’s commissioner. For the next 12 years, the festival earned a reputation as a landmark event — attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors and generating NT$1 billion (US$30 million) in revenue for the local tourism industry each year, DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said. Tien is the wife of DPP member Liu Shou-cheng (劉守成) who served two terms as Ilan County commissioner after Yu.
Lu Kuo-hua (呂國華) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was elected as the county commissioner in 2005. Citing heavy losses, Lu announced in 2007 that that year would be the last time the Children’s Folklore and Folk Game Festival would be held. The decision drew sharp criticism and Tien said Lu’s inability to manage the festival had exacerbated the situation.
Last year, the Ilan County Government planned the Ilan International Rain Festival to replace the Children’s Folklore and Folk Game Festival.
The county’s DPP members attempted to petition for a referendum on recovering the Children’s Folklore and Folk Game Festival, but the proposal was blocked by the county government’s referendum review committee.
In his speech addressing the opening of the Rain Festival yesterday, Ma lauded it as a festival that features the best of the northern county’s natural beauty and performances.
Ma praised Ilan’s “progress,” saying he was deeply impressed by the county’s landscape and the performances staged at the opening of the Taiwan Lantern Festival in February and the Ilan Green Expo in March. Ma attended both opening ceremonies.
“Ilan now stands in a much better position to sponsor large-scale tourism activities and attract more visitors, as the opening of the Hsuehshan Tunnel has conveniently connected the county to northern Taiwan regions,” Ma said. “Visitors from northern Taiwan can travel to Ilan and return home in just one day.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA