June 16, 2024

Hundreds protest Taiwan’s ruling party on eve of inauguration

Hundreds of opposition supporters rallied in Taipei to protest four more years of Democratic Progressive Party rule on Sunday, the day before Taiwan inaugurates president-elect Lai Ching-te.

Lai will take the helm as Taiwan faces increasing diplomatic and military pressures from neighbouring China — which claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory. 

But his administration will also have to work with a fractious parliament after voters in January revoked his party’s majority. 

Taiwan’s biggest opposition group, the Kuomintang (KMT) — which has historically been regarded as friendlier to China — received one more seat than the DPP, while the upstart Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) gained the role of kingmaker with eight seats. 

Outside the DPP’s headquarters on Sunday, supporters of the TPP held up guavas, called “ba le” in Chinese — which is also used to describe bad cheques.

The fruit symbolised the “empty promises” of the DPP, explained TPP leader Ko Wen-je. 

“The DPP’s empty promises have shown us their arrogance,” he told supporters, calling the ruling party “scammers”.

“We are taking to the street today because we feel so helpless with all the empty promises over the past eight years.”

Protester Samuel Chuang, 35, said a lot of young people voted for DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen back in 2016. 

“But after eight years, when we see what has actually been done, we feel like there hasn’t been much change,” the engineer said. 

“DPP betrayed us. It is not us that betrayed them.” 

In the January election, the TPP won a quarter of the votes, appealing to Taiwanese by focusing on domestic issues like unemployment, soaring housing prices and electricity rates, and wage stagnation. 

Leader Ko had also proposed his party as a “middle” path between the DPP — which staunchly defends Taiwan’s sovereignty against China — and KMT, regarded by younger Taiwanese to be overly cozy with Beijing. 

The TPP rally comes two days after a brawl broke out in Taiwan’s parliament, as DPP lawmakers tried to stop the opposition parties from proposing reform bills that would effectively expand the powers of the legislature.

Opposition groups say such reforms were needed to enable more scrutiny of the government, but the DPP said the bills were rushed through without a proper consultation process. 

Hundreds of DPP supporters gathered outside the legislature on Friday evening to protest the bills and the violence, after local media reported that both DPP and KMT lawmakers suffered injuries from the fight. 

Some rallygoers Sunday expressed dismay at the chaos in the legislature, but Ensen Wang, 32, appeared unfazed as he walked by where TPP supporters gathered. 

“That happens with democracy,” Wang said.

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