UN for Taiwan: The Kaohsiung 915 March
Michael Turton has called for pictures from yesterday's UN for Taiwan march in Kaohsiung, so here are my humble offerings. This was the DPP-organized march in support of the referendum to join the UN in the name of Taiwan. Michael has pictures from the rival KMT event in Taichung over at The View from Taiwan.
We headed down from Taipei on the High Speed Rail leaving at about 1:00pm and arriving just in time for the march to begin from the Formosa MRT station in Kaohsiung.
The march was huge and festive as is usual for pro-Taiwan events. I have no idea how many people were there, and I don't see how anyone could have done a crowd estimate the way we were packed into a a variety of construction-bound space.
A few random observations. I was surprised at how few Kaohsiung foreigners joined the march. With the exception of a German television crew, I saw exactly two other foreigners in about five hours of marching and rallying. And one of those was standing on the side of the road looking like he'd just come out of his Buxiban to see what all the excitement was about. I mention this because there were hundreds of foreigners at the massive Anti Anti-Secession Law rally a couple of years ago in Taipei.
There was no ant-American sentiment whatsoever at the march. Indeed, there was a huge American flag at the rally later in the evening. People came up to me and assured me that while they thought the US government was dead wrong on this, they were positive that the US is the best friend Taiwan has ever had. I sure hope they are right.
Yesterday's event had two distinct segments. The march through the streets of Kaohsiung was the best part. During the march, the focus was very clearly on Taiwan joining the UN. It was a powerful and moving experience to watch the overwhelming working class and rural crowd affirm that they too deserve a seat at the world table. I grasped emotionally what I had intellectually understood already: the KMT must be very, very careful in handling this issue or risk suffering another defeat.
The second part was the rally at a huge field with the thickest, plushest grass I've had the pleasure of sitting on in Taiwan. The field was surrounded by high rise luxury apartments at the foot of which sat hordes of old country people wolfing down their biandangs with the gusto of people who spent an afternoon walking. I wish I knew how to take photos at night because the contrast between those old folks turning on the taps (of course they had tools with them) to wash off and generally yucking it up under those luxury complexes (The Magnficence of Hotel-Style Living for Bosses in Prada-Style Spa Homes) was awesome.
A fair number of tourist buses were picking people up here before they joined the rally. I suspect this had something to do with the wildly varying estimates of the crowd size. Some no doubt were leaving because farmers from places like Chiayi County tucker out around 8:00pm anyway, but others because the rally itself was for the core party faithful and an opportunity for legislators and city councilors to show the folks from home that they know the national leaders by walking across the stage. In other words, the march was to rally the light greens to the cause of getting Taiwan into the UN, and the rally was the first big stop on the presidential election trail.
I sometimes forget that people brainwashed by the Blue media and middle class Taipei sensibilities are unaware of an important fact about both Su Tseng-chang and Frank Hsieh: both of them can really speak. Su has this voice that sounds like it was excavated from a gravel pit on the Jhuoshui River and the energy of a gospel preacher. He also speaks very fluent Hakka that puts the mumbling efforts of Ma Ying-jeou to speak Taiwanese to shame (Full disclosure: my Taiwanese is as almost as bad as Ma's).
Hsieh though is simply the best. Like all great speakers, he begins in a calm, reasonable register in which he sets out his basic themes and then builds into an emotional frenzy before returning to those initial themes in a moving conclusion. The gist of this speech was 'What crime has Taiwan committed to deserve being shut out of the WHO and the UN?' 'And what has Taiwan done that is so wrong that the KMT and Ma Ying-jeou won't give Taiwan a chance to join the UN using its own name?' It was great stuff. Hsieh rocks although he will need resist the temptation to score tempting cheap shots off of Ma when they debate so that he doesn't look like he is bullying Mr. Nice Guy.
If you do sit through all my photos, please excuse the last few that feature weird stuff from unreconstructed Kaohsiung, While I pride myself on living in on of the more down to earth neighborhoods in Taipei on the edge of Wanhua, much of Kaohsiung was a huge nostalgia trip for me because it still filled with all the weird Taiwanese stuff all of Taiwan used to have. Hence my delight in silly signs like the one for the Hag Hair Salon at the end.