I pressed the ringer, not knowing whether there would be anyone there. It was 11:45am, but the UP is not the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the Democratic Progressive Party — a lot of people in Taiwan are not even aware of its existence.
There was no answer, but at 1.83m tall, I was able to look in through the top section of the door that was not smoked glass. A man, somewhere in his sixties, was seated at a desk at the far corner of the room, speaking on the telephone. No lovely receptionist at the UP — at least not yet.
I pushed the door and it offered no resistance. After I had waited for a minute or so, the man concluded his call and came over, greeting me in Mandarin. I replied that I was a journalist and was wondering whether they had copies of the booklet that Chang had been promoting.
“Of course, of course,” the man said, ushering me into a conference room on my left, where he left me alone as he went back to his desk.
The otherwise empty room had two salient features: a large People’s Republic of China (PRC) flag, which contrasted sharply with the egg-white walls, and a large collection of photographs — hundreds of them — pasted on a wall showing Chang in various places he had visited in China, along with the many influential CCP figures he had brushed elbows with over the years.
This was one of those moments when I regretted not bringing my camera, but then again, I am not sure how the staff would have reacted if I had started snapping pictures with my Nikon.
My host promptly returned, holding a small stack of the booklets I had requested, though they were smaller than the one Chang had flashed on TV. He then escorted me to another door at the far end of the conference room, which gave way to another office.
In there, another man was seated at a desk — larger, made of finer wood, which I guessed meant he was a more important figure within the party — sucking on a cigarette.
My first instinct was to remind him that under Taipei City Government regulations, it was illegal to smoke inside commercial buildings, but I thought better of it.
The man, who was in his fifties, short, slightly overweight, with stained teeth, looked more the kind of person who had given Chang a bad reputation in the 1980s — in other words, more like a gangster — than the political staffer that one expects to see at a party’s headquarters.
He stood up from behind his desk and I greeted him, repeating that I was a journalist hoping to get some of the UP’s literature.
“How many do you want?” he asked in Mandarin.
“Would two be all right?” I asked.
“Have five — six,” he said.
They gave me five, which the man in his sixties placed inside a yellow envelope, either for convenience or to hide the contents.
We stood there in silence and the pair seemed to be waiting for me to ask them questions. Since I had a previous engagement, I told them that all I wanted for the time being was a copy of their booklet so I could familiarize myself with Chang’s vision.
They escorted me out, the short man smiling and thanking me profusely, his left hand cupping his right fist and shaking up and down, a symbol of gratitude in this part of the world.