Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Day 1 of demonstrations against ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin [UPDATED]

Heavy rain and equally heavy police deployments did not deter small groups from showing their colors at the corner of Zhongshan E Road and Minzu Road in Taipei yesterday. With the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Grand Hotel as a backdrop, a few dozen demonstrators gathered at about 11am under the watchful eyes of the hundreds of police officers who had lined up on both sides of the road. All awaited the arrival of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) motorcade on its way to the Grand Hotel.

Nearby, approximately 100 pro-unification demonstrators carrying red banners and the Chinese flag also gathered, engaging in a shouting match with a lone woman on her motorcycle who heckled them from the other side of the street, making the “thumbs down” sign. A handful of yellow ribbons bearing the words “Taiwan is my country” were tied to the motorcycle handles.

One young woman carrying a UN flag was initially stopped by a police officer who asked her to remove a red banner she wore across her shoulder that read “Anti-China; we will definitely win; Taiwan will become an independent country.” The woman refused, however, and the police officer let her continue on her way.

A few minutes later, a friend, named "Lina," used red paint to write words such as “liberty” and “love” on her arms and umbrella, with a handful of police officers watching on while others cheered them.

“I’m not doing anything wrong,” the woman told this writer. “No flag, nothing provocative, right?”

Next to her, another young woman was painting “Formosa betrayed” on her jeans, her hands daubed in red paint.

At one point, a minivan filled with balloons parked in front of the demonstrators, which police officers immediately swarmed. A few minutes later, a window was opened and a few dozen balloons, with hearts and various Chinese characters alluding to tainted Chinese products, escaped and lodged themselves in the trees nearby.

At about 12:15pm, Chen’s motorcade, preceded by police on motorcycles and in cars, arrived, whereupon demonstrators began chanting slogans and waving their balloons. A few small national flags were unfurled, while one woman displayed a large Tibetan flag. Police did not ask them to take the flags away. The bus Chen was on drove by at normal speed, the chairman waving at the crowd.

Asked by the media why she was present at the demonstration, a woman said in English: “President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has betrayed us. That’s why I’m here,” before joining a small group of demonstrators heading for the Grand Hotel.

At about 3pm, "Lina" informed this writer by telephone that she and two other women had been arrested by police and that her finger had been broken when a police officer attempted to take away her Tibetan flag. Police did not tell them why they were being arrested. Later on, a source informed this author that a city councilor and a lawyer had joined them at the police station.

The women were later released.

Full story here

Additional notes on Monday’s protests

It is interesting to note that while demonstrators were arrested for displaying the Tibetan or Taiwanese flags, the about 100 pro-unification demonstrators present at the corner of Zhongshan and Minzu were not bothered by police, even though five or six giant Chinese flags were in full display. It is therefore “legal” to show the CCP flag, but illegal to display the Republic of China, Taiwanese, or Tibetan flags.

At about 2pm, a woman in her mid-30s joined the small group of pro-independence demonstrators I had been following and complained to me that a police officer had just told her he was surprised that she was part of the “pro-Taiwan” gang, as she “looked so professional” — a blatant expression of the prejudicial view that the pro-independence movement is comprised of “uneducated” or “lower-class” Taiwanese, while the pro-unification, or pro-KMT ones are “professionals,” “the elite” and part of a “higher social class.”

As I arrived quite early in the morning, I walked around the scene and mixed with both crowds. While the pro-Taiwan group was welcoming and cheerful, with many people thanking me for joining them and caring about their country, members of the pro-unification camp addressed me with undertones of contempt and were overall intimidating. Their assumption probably was that as a foreigner — the only present at the scene — I was in favor of independence.

1 comment:

Tim Maddog said...

There are videos of the protest, the arrest, and subsequent interview here.

Tim Maddog