Thursday, November 07, 2013

The White Wolf’s curveball

The famous (ex-) gangster is cunningly offering money to laid-off factory workers in return for a pledge to drop a planned protest against President Ma on Sunday

Immediately following his return to Taiwan in late June after 17 years of exile in China, former Bamboo Union leader Chang An-le (張安樂) embarked on a campaign to support his political party and the cause of “peaceful reunification” between Taiwan and China.

After showcasing his propaganda booklet and making a series of rather embarrassing appearances on TV talk shows in the summer, Chang, commonly known as the White Wolf, disappeared from radar screens and only re-emerged occasionally, such as when he opened a campaign office in Greater Tainan, a “green” stronghold. Although Chang, who was released on NT$1 million bail, should in theory be busy preparing his defense for an eventual court appearance, the former gangster has apparently been busy engaging in “philanthropy.”

The White Wolf made the news again last month — three days after I encountered him at a famous bar in downtown Taipei — when he called Taiwanese “stupid” for failing to regard themselves as Chinese, and the next day, when he threatened, or offered, to deploy as many as 2,000 of his followers to the KMT’s congress in Taichung this coming Sunday to “protect” President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) against thrown shoes and protesters. Although such a move would evidently put the authorities in a bind, the silence from the Presidential Office and the National Police Administration has been, well, deafening.

Now according to a report in the Chinese-language Apple Daily today, Chang appears to have changed his mind and will no longer extend his “help” to President Ma. Instead — and this is a rather cunning move — the White Wolf is offering to raise money from “friends” and the “business sector” to help the laid-off factory workers who are behind the shoe-throwing campaign repay a NT$30 million fine imposed on them by the Council of Labor Affairs.

This seems generous, and Chang will hold a press conference at 10am tomorrow (Friday) to further explain his plan, which he claims is for the sake of ensuring “harmony in society” (note the CCP terminology). But the workers should approach such offers with great caution, if only for the fact that one never gets a free lunch from gangsters. Through this move, Chang might be trying to buy goodwill from the laid-off workers ahead of next year’s elections, in which his party has expressed interest in fielding candidates; he may also truly be attempting to help the embattled Ma as the protests threaten to undermine his rule (ex-convict and debt collector Tung Nien-tai [董念台] has reportedly called one of the laid-off workers’ representatives several times to convince her to call off Sunday’s protest); finally, he may also expect something in return, and threaten consequences should the workers refuse to do as expected after receiving his financial assistance.

Another question, of course, is where the money would come from. Chang’s affiliations with the CCP are well known, as are his political views regarding the future of Taiwan, which tend to dovetail with Beijing’s (that is, unification).

Later today, the laid-off factory workers’ association issued a response to Chang’s offer, saying that while it was “very grateful,” other ways to pay the NT$30 million fine had already been explored (fund-raising by corporate donors) but dropped in favor of continued efforts to address other systemic deficiencies, including revisions to Article 28 of the Labor Standards Act. In other words, the workers cannot be bought off, and the protests will continue.

Your next move, Mr Chang? (Photo by the author)

No comments: