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Monday, September 10, 2007

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Red Ants Return

AFP reports that the Red Ant Army of Shih Ming-te is back in action.

Thousands of people rallied in the Taiwanese capital Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of a campaign to oust President Chen Shui-bian over alleged corruption.

At least 1,000 riot police were deployed, but no clashes were reported in the candle-lit vigil, held on a square outside the presidential office.

Protesters donned red T-shirts and protest headbands, in a repeat of the huge demonstrations held a year ago when Chen refused to step down over allegations he misused funds intended for national affairs.

"The same place, the same old friends. As the same corrupt president is still there, your anger is totally understandable," democracy campaigner Shih Ming-teh, a former head of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told the crowd.

But he assured his supporters that their persistence would pay off.

"Because of you, whoever is elected as the president in the future will not dare to be corrupt," said Shih, who kicked off the A-bian (Chen's nickname) Out drive last year with round-the-clock protests in front of the presidential office.


AFP, like most who have reported on the anti-Chen protests, appears disinclined to do any real digging on this event, so I suggest you read my backgrounder over at DailyKos on the sad decline of Shih Ming-te. None of the foreign media have reported that Shih switched to the pro-China side in 2001, going to work for a pro-Blue "think tank" and running in elections against the DPP. AFP also leaves out the inconvenient fact that Shih's followers are all Blues, as Shih himself admitted last year, that there are credible allegations that Shih is getting money from China (Shih is close friends with alleged Taiwan embezzler Chen Yu-hao, who has links to the PRC government), and so on. These reports make Shih appear saner than he is, since no foreign media report has included any of his wilder remarks, such as claiming that bags on his HQ doorstep were bombs sent by the DPP, or saying that his followers were unemployed pigs. They have also failed to report that his own followers sued him for financial irregularities. In other words, the foreign media, in presenting Shih's protest, have left out everything that might enable the reader to actually understand what's going on: the whole thing is a faux protest, a pan-Blue put up job. Instead, what is created is essentially a pro-Blue political construction.

The first time the Red Ants appeared I mused on the odd connections between once-powerful local politician James Soong and Shih Ming-teh. Soong spoke at the protests many times last year, and was frequently pictured sitting next to Shih. Apparently Shih was not bothered by Soong's conviction for tax evasion (with the largest fine ever handed out to major Taiwan political figure) and the fact that he was fingered in a French Court for being the bagman on a US$400 million payoff in the Lafayette Frigate scandal. Last year, when Soong's party, the PFP, began putting pressure on the KMT about the stolen asset issue, suddenly, Shih began talking about the same thing.

Soong, a prominent pan Blue politician who once had a huge following and came just 3 points short of winning the Presidency in 2000, went into hiding after being shellacked in the Taipei mayoral elections in December of last year, where he got only 9% of the vote in the Bluest city in the country. With the Red Ants on the march again, think we'll be hearing from Soong soon?

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