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Taiwanese stage big protest against govt

Supporters of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) hold placrds as they attend a demonstration in Taipei on Jan 13, 2013. Tens of thousands of slogan-chanting Taiwanese took to Taipei's streets on Jan 13 to protest at the government's economic record in one of the biggest rallies organised by the main opposition in recent years. (PHOTO : AFP)

Publication Date : 14-01-2013


Up to 150,000 Taiwanese took to the streets of Taipei yesterday in protest against the "useless" administration of President Ma Ying-jeou amid lacklustre economic growth and misgivings over the island's increasingly cosy ties with China.

In the largest anti-government protest since Ma's re-election last year, they demanded the resignation of Premier Sean Chen, whose Cabinet has proposed or introduced a slew of unpopular policies, including a capital gains tax and an electricity rate hike.

The protesters also demanded a halt to the sale of the island's most popular media outlets to pro-China businessmen as they made their way through the main roads of Taipei beginning at 2pm.

"Sorry, I didn't win the election, and now the people are suffering," opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen, who remains popular despite her loss to Mr Ma in last year's presidential election, said on a stage in front of the presidential office where the protesters gathered at the end of the march.

Taiwan's growth slowed to about 0.95 per cent last year, according to local think-tank estimates, while unemployment remains stuck at over 4 per cent.

"President Ma ought to be ashamed for forcing the people onto the streets as a result of his incompetence," said Tsai. She was the headliner of a who's who list of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stalwarts, including former premier Frank Hsieh and former vice-president Annette Lu, who turned up at the rally led by party chairman Su Tseng-chang. Seen as a likely candidate for the 2016 election, Su called on Ma to step down.

"We want a new Cabinet, new lawmakers, and a new President," he told the crowd after listing a litany of problems, including high unemployment, a growing income gap, rising costs of living, and what he called a monopoly of the media by pro-China businesses.

A consortium of four Taiwanese companies is seeking to buy Hong Kong-based Next Media Group's print and television business in Taiwan, including the top-selling Apple Daily and Next Magazine, for a total of NT$17.5 billion (US$604 million).

One of the businessmen, Want Want China Times Group president Tsai Shao-chung, also owns China Television, satellite channel CtiTV and newspapers Want Daily and China Times. All are seen as friendly to Beijing.

Ma's ruling Kuomintang last Friday rejected an anti-monopoly media law proposed by the DPP, calling it hasty and ill thought-out.

Said Su: "Step by step, the Chinese Communist government is invading our island, our households, our brains."

Ma, whose popularity has dropped to 13 per cent, spent the day marking the 25th anniversary of the death of former President Chiang Ching-kuo. He declined to comment on the rally when asked.

But presidential spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi said last night that the Ma administration was already working to address the issues highlighted at the protest. He called on the opposition to stop the "internal struggle" and offer constructive solutions instead.


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