With a strong police deployment and barbed-wired barricades set up to block a large-scale rally against President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the Presidential Office and its surrounding areas felt like a ghost town during Ma’s inauguration yesterday in Taipei.
Although crowds took to the streets of Taipei on Saturday and yesterday to demand that Ma apologize for poor government policies, the streets around the Presidential Office were empty yesterday.
A taxi driver surnamed Huang (黃), who waited for customers at the Ximending MRT Station yesterday afternoon, described Ma as a “prisoner” who refused to listen to the voice of the people by keeping himself shut away in a cage.
“Ma hid inside the Presidential Office and blocked protesters because he is afraid of facing the mistakes he had made. They should have canceled the inaugural ceremony and saved us all the trouble,” he said.
A Taipei resident surnamed Lai (賴) questioned the sincerity of Ma’s apologetic comments.
“I just realized this morning that the inaugural ceremony takes place indoors, not outdoors, so what were the roadblocks sealing off a huge area around the Presidential Office all about?” he asked.
Faced with a growing public backlash against his administration, Ma seemed distracted yesterday. When he arrived at the Presidential Office, he walked ahead to greet foreign guests and left first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) behind.
He did not stop to wait for her until the poker-faced Chow said: “Can’t you wait for me? What is wrong with you? (很奇怪耶!)”
During the ceremony, Ma walked off in the wrong direction after he was sworn in, appearing to be confused about ceremonial protocol.
Meanwhile, an international press conference held at noon with more than 200 members of the local and foreign press in attendance, sparked disputes as some foreign reporters complained about what they said was a poorly organized press event. They accused the Presidential Office of screening questions in advance and favoring local media outlets.
“We flew all the way to Taiwan to attend the press conference and did not get to ask one question. They should not hold an international press conference if most questions are filed by local reporters,” said a reporter from Hong Kong, who wished to remain anonymous.
During the press conference, local media outlets pressed Ma on the public outrage against government policies. When asked whether he would offer a formal apology over poorly implemented policies, the president promised to reflect on government performance, but stopped short of giving a formal apology.
Commenting on Ma’s inauguration speech and his remarks during the international press conference, a foreign correspondent described Ma as: “A master of hollow slogans.”