Protesters vent their fury at Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou

Rally led by opposition DPP draws 100,000 to the streets of Taipei, blaming president for dismal performance of island's economy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 4:04am

Tens of thousands of Taiwanese yesterday took to the streets, demanding a cabinet reshuffle to improve what they described as their "unbearably miserable life", brought on by the government's failure to lift the island's sagging economy.

Shouting slogans and unfurling banners saying "People are furious" and "Step down, incompetent government", the protesters marched down Taipei's major streets and rallied in front of the Presidential Office.

Dubbed Fury, the mass protest was led by the chairman of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, Su Tseng-chang, former DPP chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen, former vice-president Annette Lu Hsiu-lien and former premier Frank Hsieh Chang-ting.

DPP officials estimated the number of participants at well over 100,000, including 35,000 to 50,000 opposition supporters mobilised by the party from southern Taiwan - home base of the pro-independence camp.

DPP politicians and some demonstrators took turns criticising the government led by mainland-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou.

"Taiwanese people have been cheated twice by Ma Ying-jeou because his government is too incompetent to do anything," Su told the rally, referring to Ma's promises at the start of his first four-year term in 2008 and his second term in May 2012, that his government would address the island's economic woes in order to improve people's livelihoods.

He also lashed out at Ma and his government for tolerating the growing trend of local consortiums - including snack food giant Want Want Group - trying to take control of local news media for their own benefit.

One of Su's targets was Tsai Eng-meng, head of the Want Want Group. He already owns several newspapers and a cable television network, and plans to buy part of the Taiwanese print-media division of Hong Kong-based Next Media, which would further enlarge his media empire on the island.

Another focus of the attack on Ma was what Su described as "half-hearted" reforms by the government of a handsome pension and bonus system for government employees. It is seen as unfair by the Taiwanese public, who have suffered from the island's persistent economic woes.

Su demanded that Ma reshuffle the cabinet led by Premier Sean Chen, stop local consortiums from buying or controlling local news media, and hold a national-affairs conference attended by all of Taiwan's political parties, to discuss reform of the bonus and pension system.

Former premier Hsieh said the public had no choice but to take to the streets, having suffered far too long without any hope. He said that if the people's will was strong enough, the DPP would not rule out launching a movement to unseat Ma, or any legislators unwilling to heed the voices of the public.

The demonstration featured a variety of groups with different agendas, including women dressed in wedding gowns pushing empty strollers, retired government workers backing pension reform, and anti-nuclear activists.

The mass protest was the largest anti-government action since Ma was re-elected in May of last year.

Ma yesterday led a group of Kuomintang officials to pay homage to late president Chiang Ching-kuo at his mausoleum in Taoyuan county south of Taipei, in memory of the 25th anniversary of his death.