Hundreds of thousands# of people took to the streets of Taipei and Kaohsiung today for the DPP’s 517 rally. The rally marked the one year anniversary of President Ma Ying-jeou taking office. During this time there has been the financial crisis, rising unemployment and concerns that closer ties to China were at the expense of Taiwan’s sovereignty. The event had four themes: safeguarding sovereignty, referendum on ECFA, help for the unemployed and assisting the disadvantaged.
In the days before the protest the DPP created an English language blog (perhaps in response to this criticism). A translation of Tsai Ing-wen’s open letter on the blog provides a clear and eloquent explanation of the rationale for the march. Sometimes the slogans are overly simplistic and don’t fully communicate the issues.
I joined the Taipei rally with Darren. There was already lots of people outside the exit of the Gongguan MRT. A variety of groups gathered at NTU which was one of four starting points for the marches in Taipei. The groups included GUTS United (逆轉本部）, although their leader Freddy Lim joined the march in Kaohsiung.
This lady proudly waves two flags.
This person is carrying a sign saying “Chinese students come to Taiwan, Taiwan students jump in the sea” (陸生來台,台生跳海).
This sign needs no translation.
This lady hits a horse. President Ma’s name also means horse which lends itself to a lot of jokes.
The Presbyterian Church had a strong presence at the march.
We arrived on Ketagalan Boulevard around five o’clock. There was a huge crowd and there were big screens set up on the Jingfu Gate for the crowd who spilled out onto Zhongshan Road. At around 5:45 DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文）, former Premiers Su Tseng-chang （蘇貞昌) and Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and others took to the stage. At six o’clock Tsai Ing-wen addressed the crowd. She said that it was important to resist China and ensure that Taiwanese controlled their future. Without democracy there would be no human rights. (Update: an English translation of Tsai’s speech is available on the DPP blog.)
During the protest I sent some live tweets to twitter. Others also tweeted about the protest, some using the hashtag #517. Here is a selection of tweets:
spotlessmind10 Hope 517 protest would end peacefully. so sick of politics! It’s nothing abt which party u support. It’s abt what’s right 4 da country!
JuleSuga #517 Proud to be Taiwanese! Taiwan Go! Go! Go!
ilya In the parade of 517, so moved when white flagged Presbyterian Church, and purple flagged Taiwan Soul / Taitung Defending Team passed by.
There was an incident were a police car hit two protesters as they were leaving the protest in Taipei. Two men were seriously injured. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin is scheduled to hold a press conference tonight and more details should be reported in the media tomorrow.
The DPP is continuing the protest overnight and tomorrow with a 24 hour sit in on Ketagalan Boulevard. The sit in is a non-violent protest against the proposed amendments to the Parade and Assembly Law.
#Estimates of the crowd vary wildly. This report says, “While the DPP said more than 600,000 joined in the protest, police estimated the number at no more than 100,000.” The actual number probably lies somewhere in between. On SET TV’s Talking Show they are saying that the crowd was bigger than last year’s 1025 protest. The combined crowds in Taipei and Kaohsiung would certainly add up to hundreds of thousands.