"Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

915 UN for Taiwan - I was there!

(TM) Kaohsiung, Taichung, and points between

The correspondents
This past Saturday, Michael Turton and Craig Ferguson were together in Taichung scoping out the old fogeys and hired babes at the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) rally. Feiren and I were (separately) in Kaohsiung, as was Wally Santana of AP. The dateline on a Reuters piece o'crap by Ralph Jennings (a veritable king of loaded language) says he was in Taipei (345 kilometers away from Kaohsiung), and while Bloomberg's Tim Culpan wrote about it, too, he may as well have been phoning it in from an alternate universe beneath KMT headquarters. (Read on, and you'll see why I say so.)

Many participants in the SocialForce.tw discussion took part in overseas rallies, including ones at the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York, the Federal Building in Los Angeles, the TECO office in El Monte, CA, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and many other places.

I can only wonder how many people around the globe took part in the day's events supporting Taiwan's entry into the UN.

From here to there
First, some details gathered on my personal adventure to Kaohsiung.

My wife and I boarded a Taiwan Railways train at the station in downtown Taichung, where there was a nice big "UN for Taiwan" banner hanging out front. (Be sure to also check out Michael Turton's impressive panorama of the same scene taken 2 days later when there were far fewer people.)

Taichung Station for UN Taiwan

I didn't know if I'd see or be able to notice anybody aboard who might be headed to the Kaohsiung rally. Imagine my surprise when DPP heavyweight Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) got on my car in Chiayi (嘉義) wearing a green-sleeved "UN for Taiwan" jersey and sat a couple rows in front of me. He reclined in his seat and snoozed through most of the journey there, but before disembarking, a smiling supporter had grabbed his attention, so I didn't get the chance to say hello.

Chai Trong-rong snoozing  Entering Kaohsiung

At the station in Kaohsiung, it was more crowded than Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. I photographed a couple of the same kind of banners that Feiren saw there.

Banners at Kaohsiung Train Staion

So that's why they call 'em "5-star" hotels!
Leaving the train station by taxi, my wife and I headed to our hotel -- a high-class joint a short distance from the start of the parade route. But we were both tired and hungry. I had hardly slept at all on Friday night because I was so excited about the upcoming rally. We looked for food, but of the two nearby places on the map the hotel provided, one was already closed for their afternoon break, and the other apparently no longer existed at that location. So, we went back to the hotel and ordered room service.

By the time we had eaten, the parade had already gotten underway, so we were trying to see how the media was covering it. When I turned on the tube, it was tuned to TVBS where Lee Tao was busy spouting his usual nonsense and looking like his head was about to explode. SET was missing in action. FTV was present and accounted for, so we stuck mostly with that channel.

The TV images showed huge crowds, and we were in an air-conditioned room sitting on a comfortable bed. But I didn't come all that way just to sit there!

4:40 PM - Lots of people  5:04 PM - Will the bridge hold them all?  5:19 PM - Aerial shot of lots of people

Since the parade was well on its way, we hailed a taxi and headed for Nong 16 (農16), which was the end of the parade route and the site of the evening rally. The ride was not short (costing NT$150), so I didn't regret skipping the long walk in that heat. We were able to get out just a short distance behind the big stage.

Pure energy
There was so much happening, I have to refer to my photos and videos to get everything in order. Also, even though I was trying to not to fill my memory cards with images, I filled 3 of them.

Sign the petition - UN for Taiwan  One letter per person - UN for Taiwan  George Kerr's Formosa Betrayed (Mandarin)

Miscellaneous observations
Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) had lots of energy with which to fire up the crowd. An aboriginal singer-rapper let the rhythms flow in an exciting rapid-fire manner, yet he carried a wonderful melody at the same time. There were many different kinds of T-shirts for sale. I got myself a special one with a design which I'll keep secret. ;-)

The crowd was composed of people of all ages. I saw a guy walking with an upside-down ROC flag hanging from a ragged broom. A man in front of me had flags from earlier pro-democracy rallies I'd attended (228 Hand-in-Hand, 326 Democracy/Peace/Protect Taiwan). There were people as far as the eye could see (with more and more arriving in droves). An Elvis impersonator sang "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," and other tunes. DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) led the crowd with inspiring cheers. I saw Robin Hood (AKA Robin Dale of "Formosa Lily" fame [see the original video]) in the crowd nearby, Vice-President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) implored the US government in English to understand Taiwan's dilemma. Cabinet spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) via satellite, live from New York kicked out something like a rap -- in Taiwanese:

1:14 YouTube video: "915 UN for Taiwan - Shieh Jhy-wey raps for Taiwan"
Camera/Editing: Tim Maddog

And how could I forget Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) chiding of Ma "Don't Paint Me Red" Ying-jeou:

[Maddog translation]
Why can't you give Taiwan a chance?!
Coming up to the end of the event, when Cabinet Secretary-General Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) and Kuan Bi-ling introduced President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the crowd went abso-friggin-lutely wild. See for yourselves:

2:40 YouTube video: "Kaohsiung - 915 UN for Taiwan - Chen Shui-bian, unpopular?"
Camera/Editing: Tim Maddog

At the end of the evening, there were lots of fireworks, the sound system played Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" at high volume, lifting spirits even higher, people were enthusiastically chanting "Taiwan! Go, go, go!" and the evening, despite some small glitches, was one for the history books. The people of Taiwan, both at home and abroad, along with friends from nations around the world, had stood up and made their voices heard with a peaceful, positive message: "UN for Taiwan! Peace forever!"

President Chen Shui-bian - UN for Taiwan

A short while later when it was time to go, without necessitating any external pressure, the crowd dispersed in quite an orderly fashion, as they have at every single DPP event I've attended. It was a great end to an awesome evening.

During the rally, I got many smiles, thumbs up, expressions of gratitude, handshakes, and arms around the shoulder for my presence and support. As memorable as it already was just to be there, those things gave the experience an even more powerful flavor which I will forever carry with me.

The soreness
On the downside, my legs were killing me, so after grabbing some nourishment at a nearby bakery, we headed back to the hotel. The TV was strangely not saying a whole lot about the event, so it was time for a little more food, a shower, and sleep.

Rude awakening
The hotel breakfast was pretty bad, and by that, I mean 5-star awful! But equally bad was the China Times (中國時報) hanging on the door handle when we first went out. Perhaps that was the bad taste that lingered within me until noon.

5-star Times

To our surprise, when we picked up the Liberty Times (自由時報) (a "green" paper) from the nearest convenience store, the story wasn't on its front page. (It was on page A3 while the KMT's was on page A2.) However, its "sister paper," the Taipei Times reported it in the front page headline story which, in my opinion, was where it should have been.

The numbers game
First, all the wrong ones, and I'll start with an explanation of what I was alluding to in my earlier remark about Bloomberg's Tim Culpan reporting from "another universe." Head firmly up someone's ass -- perhaps his own -- he says that there were a mere "60,000" in Kaohsiung -- supposedly quoting [DPP] "organizers" -- and "100,000" in Taichung, quoting the KMT. Ralph Jennings of Reuters tells readers that there were "150,000" in Kaohsiung and "100,000" in Taichung. Wally Santana says "more than 100,000" were in Kaohsiung. Even the BBC says, quoting "police," that "At least 100,000 people" took part in the rally in Kaohsiung, and a later BBC story says "250,000." But you know what? They're all wrong -- every last one of them.

My own conservative estimate of at least 500,000 is based on: being there; walking through the whole site twice; actually counting large sections of people; and estimating how many such sections were present. Oh, and there are those photos and videos that I shot, in case you have doubts.

6:14 PM Crowd Panorama 1 (5 pieces)

6:18 PM Crowd Panorama 2 (7 pieces)

The usual BS
The above articles all contain the usual memes/errors/lies/distortions -- you know, the ones about Chen Shui-bian being "written off as an embarrassment" by his own party or of being "unnecessarily provocative" towards the US and/or China, the ones where the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has the "Chinese" part left off, the ones where Taiwan "split" from China in 1949, the ones where the economy is "sluggish," and so on and so forth, ad nauseum.

Readers of Taiwan Matters should certainly know better than to believe any of that kind of nonsense.

UPDATE: Reuters' "The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly Editor" has issued a "correction," apparently a short time before I published this post (see also this) which reads:
China has seen self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory rather than as a separate country since the island broke away from China in 1949 when Mao Zedong's Communists came to power.
Uh, not unless you equate both 1949 Taiwan and 1949 China with the KMT, eh? [/ END UPDATE]

The little surprises
Heading over to Chichin Island (旗津) early Sunday afternoon where the crowds were totally unaware of a "sluggish" economy, my wife almost immediately spotted something exciting -- a green sticker on a light pole reading in white calligraphic script "台灣國" (Taiwan Nation). Thumbs up!

Thumbs up for the Taiwan Republic  This is the Taiwan Republic

But it felt hotter and more humid than the sauna in hell's kitchen, so after stopping at a juice stand across the road, and passing by several of what my wife and I both perceived as being practically identical seafood eateries (no obvious specialties, just the same 50 or so items at every place?), we opted instead to head straight to La Mambo café, where the jingji (經濟, economy) seemed actually rather jingqi (景氣, or bustling).

Every table was occupied at La Mambo

Chichin Island Panorama

We were volunteer "lab rats" on the "choo-choo of (potential) death"

HSR at rest at the Zuoying StationLotsa leg room on the HSRGood bilingual info on the HSRHSR was nearly at full capacityHSR at Zuoying Station

Yep, that's right! We returned to Taichung on Taiwan's relatively new High Speed Rail. It was our "first time," and in contrast with what the Consumers' Foundation (Chinese Taipei) would have had us believe, nearly everything about the HSR was easy-breezy.

Volunteer lab rats?  These people aren't afraid of the HSR

In contrast with what the pan-blue media had been telling me, there were lots of people buying tickets. We got to the station so early (as a precaution) that our wait was actually longer than the trip itself! We walked around the station and checked out the shops, the signage, etc.

Back of the HSR ticket
Read number 4, and tell me if the TVBS reporter who blowdried their ticket was just a dumbass or was trying to create a story where there was none.

The trip home was fast. It was smooth. I was oblivious to just how much danger I was supposed to be in.

Zuoying HSR Station panorama
Zuoying HSR Station

Home, sweet potato home
Back in Taichung, I started putting all the photos and videos onto the hard drive, writing this post, editing videos, uploading and tagging photos, looking for others' experiences with the rallies. It took way too long, but I hope I've given you a view that you wouldn't have otherwise seen.

* A guest post from October 11, 2005 by Jerome F. Keating, PhD, on The Peking Duck blog: Should Taiwan have a seat on the United Nations? Most of the important details related to Taiwan's bid to join the UN can be found within that single post.
* Shieh Jhy-wey in New York with more of his "rap."
* A rockin' slideshow from Canberra and Sydney, Australia accompanied by a song called "相信台灣出英雄" (Here are the lyrics) performed by 水龍頭樂團.
* Strangely, a Hong Kong news report gives one of the highest crowd estimates I've seen ("400,000") and has a great image of the parade participants (14 seconds in).
* A musical interlude with video of the twinkling Taipei 101 Tower "UN for Taiwan" display
* Video from the Taiwanese Association in Belgium (Bruxelles/Brussels) in Taiwanese, French, and English
* A video called "UN for Taiwan--Voices from UK" has a couple of members of the UK Parliament speaking out on Taiwan's behalf.
* EuroNews (who seems to have deleted all their online articles) says "Hundred thousand rally in Taiwan over UN bid
." Never mind the inaccurate number in the title -- see for yourself.
* More from EuroNews: "Hundred thousand rally in Taiwan over UN bid, Part 2." This one shows the climax of the evening rally.
* A slideshow of scenes from Vancouver with the song "She [Taiwan] is our baby." Contains some of the same photos linked near the top of this post.
* People from Berkeley to San Francisco "Represent!" their support for "UN Membership for Taiwan."
* Plenty more pictures from New York and Kaohsiung
* A supporter of UN for Taiwan takes a subversive approach to spreading the message.
* More photos from Kaohsiung
* Yushan TV has lots of video (WATCH THE VOLUME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) including this one from the Kaohsiung rally (which contains many of the same scenes visible in Feiren's pictures) which shows that DPP supporters are not only 「一高二低」 ("old, uneducated, and low income"):

Online Videos by Veoh.com

* Here's a video from Taiwan Nathan ("Taiwan Nation" with a lisp?) (WATCH THE VOLUME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

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Cross-posted at Taiwan Matters!

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