President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday focused his “homestay” campaign tour on Miaoli as he sought to consolidate support in one of the nation’s major Hakka constituencies and promised to devote more effort to the development of local areas if re-elected.
Amid cheers from local supporters, Ma shook hands and posed for photographs with residents and vendors as he visited a local market in Miaoli yesterday morning.
Stressing his Hakka identity, he called for support for his re-election bid from Hakka communities.
“I am also a Hakka and I’ve been visiting the Ma Village in Miaoli on the second day of the Lunar New Year for 13 years. I will continue the tradition next year, and I am here today to call for your support. Taiwan has changed, and we must continue to move forward,” he said.
Ma makes the annual visit to Ma Village (馬家庄) in Miaoli County’s Tongsiao Township (通宵) to distribute red envelopes as a New Year’s blessing.
The annual visit is part of Ma’s efforts to build relations with the Hakka community. However, while most of Ma Village’s residents are surnamed Ma, none of the Hong Kong-born president’s ancestors or relatives have ever lived there.
Hakka communities have a large population in Miaoli, Hsinchu and Taoyuan counties and are traditionally pan-blue strongholds where Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have enjoyed solid support in previous elections.
With Tsai’s Hakka identity and her efforts to expand support in those areas, however, Ma has stepped up his campaign efforts during this election campaign.
Attending a meeting with -women’s groups in Miaoli, the president defended his women’s policies and promised to continue promoting gender equality in the workplace and pushing for the rights of women in various fields.
In response to concerns about the construction of the Miaoli Taiwan High Speed Rail station, Ma promised that the station would start construction next year and the service launched by 2015.
Ma later visited Hsinchu County in the evening and stayed overnight in the area. He will conclude the “homestay” trip today canvassing the streets in Taoyuan County.