Taitung County police, security officers and Taiwan Railways Administration staff yesterday tried to stop demonstrators from protesting against President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) by standing between them and Ma, clapping their hands and chanting slogans of welcome to the president.
Ma was paying a visit to Luye Railway Station in Taitung to inspect renovations, as well as the electrification of the railway line between Hualien and Taitung, which is in the testing stage and is scheduled to be launched in June.
Ma was expected to arrive at 9:30am and traffic control measures had been put in place early in the morning, with vehicles being stopped hundreds of meters away from the train station.
Despite the measure, about 20 people managed to reach the station demanding that Ma step down and that nuclear waste be removed from Lanyu (蘭嶼), also known as Orchid Island, which is home to Tao Aborigines.
The protesters held banners stating their opposition to the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement and the completion of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City.
Police officers positioned themselves to block the protesters from crossing the plaza in front of the station.
In one exchange between the protesters and police, who were pushed up against the protesters, a female protester shouted: “Why are you standing so close to me?”
Some of the protesters moved to gather at another place, but were again met by another wall of police.
When Ma arrived at the station, the protesters shouted: “President, apologize,” “Ma Ying-jeou, step down,” while railway staff chanted: “Welcome President Ma to Luye Railway Station.”
Ma appeared to be unaffected by the protesters, walking into the station, smiling. He stayed for 10 minutes talking to train drivers and other staff.
The protesters shouted at Ma again as he walked out of the station, while the police clapped their hands in an effort to drown out the shouting until the motorcade drove away.
Ma then visited a tea farm in Luye Township (鹿野), before inspecting a railway project in Taitung City.
To prevent protesters from following the president, vehicles were cleared from the roads at a distance of between 300m and 400m from each destination.
During the tour of the Taitung City project, Ma apologized to Taitung residents for the delay in completion of the electrification of the Hualien to Taitung line, which is now scheduled to be finished by the end of June.
He said that while electrified railway lines were established in western Taiwan 30 years ago, there is no such service in the eastern part of the country.
This is unfair to Taitung residents, Ma said, apologizing for what he said was the government’s lack of priority regarding the development of the electrified rail service in the eastern counties of Taitung and Hualien, which will be resolved on its completion.
The project was originally scheduled to be completed at the end of last year, but was delayed due to typhoons and late delivery of construction materials from abroad, the government said.
Additional reporting by CNA