As President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government promote ever-closer business and trade relations between Taiwan and China, a group of people who lost out on their investments in China have come together to raise awareness of their predicament and call for change.
These “Victims of Investment in China,” as they call themselves, have organized a series of protest marches and motorcades in Taipei and other places, and regularly gather next to Taipei Railway Station to tell people about their unfortunate experiences on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.
The group has so far held eight protest demonstrations in the nation’s five biggest cities, starting with one in Taipei on Sept. 9.
According to the main organizer, Shen Po-sheng (沈柏勝), a self--described China investment victim, the group is waiting until the Lunar New Year holiday is over before it stages its ninth parade. Shen said that the group’s demonstrations are growing in size and influence, so it will continue to hold them.
They have gathered at Taipei Railway Station every day since Dec. 12, Shen said. Participants carry flags and banners, wear jackets emblazoned with protest slogans and frequently burn the Chinese flag.
Shen said that they must have burned between 20 and 30 Chinese flags so far.
Each protester has a bitter tale to tell. While many have lost all the money they invested, families have also been ruined, while others have lost their lives.
The protests are a very effective way of getting the message out and people who have invested and lost their money in China turn up and join in on a regular basis, Shen said
Sometimes Taiwanese or Chinese come forward to say that they have high-up connections in China and could help the group take legal action, he added.
However, some of these people have an agenda that has something to do with China’s “united front” policy, so their motives might be somewhat dubious, Shen said.
Every day, people who speak with a variety of Chinese accents come and take photographs, but this does not worry the protesters because the whole point of what they are doing is to get the message about the Chinese authorities’ wrongdoings through to as many people as possible, he said.
Seeking to reach an international audience, the group has posted a page in English on their Web site.
The protests have attracted the attention of overseas media. The Washington Post and Tokyo Web are among those who have sent reporters to interview them, Shen said.
The protesters will take a few days off over the Lunar New Year break to relax and celebrate with their families, but will be back to their daily schedule on Thursday.
Having been re-elected in the Jan. 14 presidential election, Ma has said he will continue to push for a cross-strait investment protection agreement to be signed, but Shen is not optimistic about what such an agreement can achieve.
A formal agreement might sound like a useful and sensible measure, but in Shen’s view, the problem is that the Chinese authorities will never implement it properly.
He said that many of the victims he knows have been robbed by local government officials in China, so he holds out little hope for the success of investigations carried out by other Chinese officials into the activities of their fellow bureaucrats.
Through their regular demonstrations and gatherings, the group is gradually gaining in strength.