People calling for the preservation of the Losheng Sanatorium yesterday launched a surprise protest outside the debate venue for vice presidential candidates as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) arrived to show support for his running mate, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), with one protester getting to within 1m of the president.
“President Ma, please save Losheng! President Ma, please save Losheng!” a woman shouted as she jumped out from the press area in front of the Public Television Service building in Taipei City, where the debate was held, just as Ma stepped out of his car.
Though surrounded by secret service agents and police officers, the protester managed to get an arm’s length away from the president.
She was quickly pulled away by security personnel, but another group of Losheng conservationists across the street took out banners and placards that read “President Ma, please save Losheng,” and “Losheng SOS” before trying to storm across the street.
Police officers rushed across the street to block their progress and arrested several protesters.
“The [Taipei City] Department of Rapid Transit Systems promised that the Losheng site would be safe. However, because of the complicated geological composition in the area and the underground water reservoir, the ground and the buildings are now cracking,” a spokesman for the Youth Alliance for Losheng surnamed Liao (廖) said when explaining the protest. “We petitioned Ma in 2008 about the issue when he just took office, but he did nothing about it. We’re here to remind him again, and we shouted our demands in front of him so that he cannot continue to pretend that he didn’t hear us.”
During the clashes, a reporter surnamed Wang (王) of Coolloud.org, an Internet-based news source, was also arrested and sent to a nearby police station with five other protesters, with police saying they suspected that he had brought them along.
Wang denied the accusation, and was released after a brief interrogation.
“How could I carry protesters in with me? I think the police were trying to find someone to blame for the loopholes in their security measures, and I, a reporter affiliated with a small Internet media company, am just the perfect target,” Wang said after he was released.