A Conspiracy of Hecklers

(Taipei Times)  Chen brushes off hecklers' taunts at separate venues.  By Ko Shu-ling.  November 10, 2007.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) shrugged off hecklers at two functions in Taipei City yesterday, a departure from a few days earlier, when he responded to their challenge.  "It was quite a fanfare," Chen told reporters as he was leaving the International Conference Center where he attended the opening ceremony of a medical forum.

Chen made the remarks in response to media inquiries about recent disturbances caused by hecklers during his outdoor activities.

Two men and one woman were taken away by police after causing a disruption as Chen entered and left the venue yesterday.  They shouted "preserve the Lo Sheng Sanatorium" and "why can the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall be designated a historic site while the Lo Sheng Sanatorium cannot?"  The sanitarium was built under Japanese colonial rule in 1930 in Sinjhuang ( 新莊 ), Taipei County. The Taipei City and Taipei County governments initially planned to demolish the facility to make way for the Xinzhuang Line of the mass rapid transit line.  Patients and human-rights advocates, however, refuse to abandon the hospital and the Council for Cultural Affairs has sought to have it turned into a historic site.

At a separate setting, a father surnamed Chang ( ) shouted "A-bian [Chen's nickname] step down," before Chen was to deliver a speech at the Taipei Municipal Zhong Zheng Elementary School centennial celebrations yesterday morning.  Chang was taken away and later told reporters his behavior was not premeditated.  He said he was disappointed with the performance of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government over the years and that he was particularly upset by remarks Chen had made a few days earlier.

Chen came under fire for making comments about a heckler who shouted: "People can barely make a living" while attending an Expoion at the World Trade Center on Thursday.  Chen appeared momentarily distracted but soon regained his composure and said that unlike the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government, the DPP administration would not ask someone like late gangster boss Chen Chi-li ( 陳啟禮 ) to assassinate dissidents.  The president mentioned the incident at another setting later that day, saying the heckler must have a decent lifestyle or he would not have had the time, frame of mind or money to attend the Expoion.

(China Post)  Rulers Infected with Elistism.  November 11, 2007.

There was a time not so long ago when the Democratic Progressive Party was thought to be in close touch with the lives of ordinary people.

During the years of Kuomintang rule, which governed Taiwan after it was handed over from Japan in 1945, KMT leaders were commonly thought to be mainland transplants who kept a distance from the people and remained unaware of the challenges they faced in their daily lives. Now, not even eight years after the DPP has replaced the KMT as our ruling party, it appears the tables have turned, and it is the DPP that has fallen out of touch with ordinary people.

Nothing illustrates this phenomenon more than the harsh way top leaders have handled a series of recent heckling incidents. DPP leaders who once prided themselves on their folksiness and humble backgrounds now appear all but sick and tired of hearing complaints from the people. President Chen Shui-bian, the self-declared "Son of Taiwan" who rose from a poor farming family to become a famous lawyer and national leader, has now abandoned any pretense of being close to the ordinary man.

Last week when President Chen attended an Exposition of domestically produced high-fidelity audio equipment, a man approached him and loudly declared, "the people will soon be unable to live!" The president didn't offer much of a reaction to the emotional heckler, saying only that he respected differing opinions that commonly occur in a democratic society.

But soon afterward, President Chen angrily announced that unlike his KMT predecessors, he would not train gangsters like Chen Chi-li and dispatch them to "whack" people like the protester. The president was referring to the late Bamboo Union leader Chen Chi-li, who in the 1980s was sent to the United States by intelligence officials to assassinate Chinese American author Henry Liu after Liu had published a biography harshly critical of then President Chiang Ching-kuo.

After President Chen returned to his office, he told a group of visitors that Taiwan's economy was clearly doing quite well, since the man who claimed the people could hardly live still had the spare time and money to buy a ticket to a hi-fi stereo Exposition. On the same day, Vice President Annette Lu got an earful from a market pork vendor, who complained that rising prices and inflation had left her virtually unable to earn a living. After Vice President Lu left the market, she told reporters she had received "intelligence" confirming the vendor was deliberately planted by reporters eager to fabricate negative news stories.

Later, when President Chen was making a visit to Kaohsiung, a red-shirted protester shouted slogans demanding his ouster. He responded by saying he didn't even fear the Chinese Communist Party, much less the anti-Chen redshirts, and ordered his critics to stop harassing him.

The president has since been confronted by hecklers on other occasions, including during a visit to a school and a medical facility. Each time the hecklers are spirited away by security officers, the president has publicly chided his critics and reaffirmed his own sense of self-righteousness. According to our outspoken president and vice president, all of their critics are either agents of the opposition-dominated press, dolts or just plain wrong.

We do understand that leaders of all political stripes cannot abandon fundamental policies simply because they have been confronted by hecklers. However, we are quite surprised at the abrasive and harsh way that our leaders have dealt with these incidents. While heckling is rather common in other democratic countries, foreign leaders are almost always gracious enough to quickly brush away their critics and continue their original itineraries.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who has frequently been heckled during public speeches and gatherings due to the controversial U.S.-led war in Iraq, has never publicly lashed out at his critics with such abrasive and angry words. Even when an anti-war student spit in the face of the former U.S. President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, the controversial American leader merely wiped off his face with a handkerchief and continued making his way to where he was going.

In contrast, President Chen and Vice President Lu have abrasively snapped back at their critics by accusing them of being plants, hacks and idiots. The fact that President Chen and Vice President Lu have responded to critics long after being confronted also proves they are truly upset because ordinary people have the nerve to heckle them. While the DPP had formerly prided itself on its close connections to ordinary people, these days it is clear that President Chen and Vice President Lu have been infected with the same kind of elitism that brought down the KMT.

(Apple Daily)  November 9, 2007.

At the Taipei Audio-Visual Equipment Expo, when a citizen heckled with :"The people cannot live!", President Chen Shui-bian was briefly taken aback and only said: "It's good to hear that.  Someone always wants to create a scene."  He also said: "But we would not do what the former government did by sending Chen Chi-li over and whacking him.  We won't do that."

Later, back at the Presidential Office, President Chen Shui-bian met with a North American Taiwanese Doctors Association delegation and said: "How can a person who does not even have money to pay for three meals a day afford to go to the Audio-Visual Equipment Expo?  Can he afford to spend money to buy an admission tickets to look at these expensive audio-visual equipment?"

Meanwhile, Vice-President Annette Lu was checking out prices in Taipei.  A female citizen heckled her by saying: "Resign!"  But Lu said calmly: "There has to be some different voices among 23 million people."

When Vice-President Annette Lu went to the traditional market in Kaohsiung, a female pork vendor heckled: "I can hardly get by anymore.  I don't know what to do next.  You look at me.  I am such a thin girl.  Nobody is buying my pork.  You ought to buy something here."  Afterwards, Annette Lu said that she has received intelligence that this woman was planted there to create a media story.

Video Link副總統親赴高雄視察 攤販大罵什麼都漲 呂秀蓮尷尬苦笑  YouTube

Video Link活不下去的人看什麼音響展  YouTube

(TVBS)  November 9, 2007.

Vice-President Annette Lu said: "The reaction afterwards was that this was pre-arranged.  Before I arrived, a young woman was planted there to contradict me.  This is a media set-up.  Shortly after I left, I received the intelligence.  Therefore, I feel that it is a grave offense against the public for a small number of media outlets to create such a news item.  After I departed, I heard that she was laughing behind my back.  So she was not a good actress."

Reporter: "So you are saying that the media asked her to do this?"

Lu: "I don't know who asked her.  It was a deliberate set-up."

(TVBS)  November 9, 2007.

The reporter went back to the Kaohsiung market to revisit the female pork vendor.  Is she a fake?  She pointed out to the pork on her stall: "It is so hard to sell pork nowadays.  This is past 10am and I haven't had one customer yet."  From early morning to noon, she sold less than half of her merchandise.

(Apple Daily)  November 10, 2007.

Yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian went to Kaohsiung and was heckled by a woman in red with :"Down with Ah-bian" and "Don't come to our Kaohsiung."  The woman was taken away by the police.

Afterwards, President Chen Shui-bian said: "Over the past two or three days, they send someone to wherever I go.  Everybody can see that clearly."  He also said: "I am not even afraid of the Communists.  So why would I be afraid of the Red Shirts?"

Meanwhile, who claimed to have heckled President Chen Shui-bian at the Audio-Visual Equipment Expo in Taipei called up TVBS and said that he was a temporary employee and not a paid visitor.  Afterwards, the Taipei Electronic Equipment Industry Association chief executive said that they have demanded the company that provided the temporary workers to conduct an investigation.  The said company has asked all its workers to sign statements to the effect that they had not been disrespectful to the head of state.

Video Link扁呂遭嗆 阿扁回馬槍:還有閒情逸致逛展覽 秀蓮姐 半斤八兩 相對有風度  YouTube

Video Link呂副總統:嗆聲是陰謀。 總統:你們知道的  YouTube

(Apple Daily)  November 10, 2007.

Yesterday, the female pork vendor named Ah Chu said in Kaohsiung said, "This stall requires at least NT$5,000 in sales in order to break even.  Recently, business has been lousy.  This week, there was even one day with only more than NT$2,000 in sales.  "It is a fact that business is not good!"  The owner named Tsai who hired this woman said: "The Vice-President has no class when she said that.  She only wants to hear good things.  She doesn't want to listen to anything bad.  That is really disappointing to me."

(Apple Daily)  November 11, 20070.

Yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian was making a speech at the Taipei Municipal Zhong Zheng Elementary School centennial celebrations when a parent with a child on his shoulder suddenly yelled out: "Down with Ah-bian!"  Later on, the President said, "It was very exciting!"

Before that, President Chen Shui-bian was attending a medical forum when two males students and one female student yelled out: "Preserve the Lo Sheng Sanatorium" and "Why can the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall be designated a historic site while the Lo Sheng Sanatorium cannot?"  The students were removed by security.

With respect to the Kaohsiung female butcher, President Vice-President Annette Lu moderated her attitude today and said: "Please don't spend any more time on that.  Please pay more attention to affairs of the state.  The media reporting should not be exaggerated and distorted."

Meanwhile, DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh weighed in to say that in a diversified society, some people support President Chen while others (such as the Red Shirts and the deep blue supporters) oppose him.  Hsieh said: "If you oppose him, you oppose him.  Do not act as if you are just an ordinary citizen.  I think that this is misleading.  The media ought to research deeper when they report.  I can easily get my relatives to heckle and protest against Ma Ying-jeou.  That is easy, but it would be unfair!"

Video Link攔路抗議成風?  YouTube

(Apple Daily)  November 12, 2007

Yesterday in Miao Li, President Chen Shui-bian sent this message to the hecklers over the past few days: "If you don't like Taiwan and you think that China is so great, you should know that there is no lid over the Pacific Ocean.  If you like China, you should swim over there!"

Vice-President Annette Lu offered her support of the president: "Recently, some people say that it is impossible to live in Taiwan.  But many citizens have been queuing up overnight to buy brand-name handbags at the anniversary sales at department stores.  How can they find it impossible to live?"

Citizen comments:
"If you want to swim to China, you cross the Taiwan Straits and not the Pacific Ocean.  You just failed the Taiwan geography class!"
"If you think China is good, you should swim over.  If you think that Ah Bian is lousy, can you shove him into the Pacific Ocean?"
"When people criticize you, you want to chase people away.  You classify everyone and anyone who criticizes you as pro-China and pro-unification, and you question the loyalty and self-identity of all of them.  This is wrong."

(Apple Daily)  November 12, 2007.

(source: Apple Daily poll of 609 persons in Taiwan)

Q. After being heckled over the past few days, Ah Bian talked back: "If you think that China is so great, you should know that there is no lid over the Pacific Ocean.  If you like China, you should swim over!"
75.7%: This is absurd -- what kind of president talks such nonsense!
15.1%: This is reasonable.  If someone thinks Taiwan is not good, he should go to China
  9.2%: Don't know/no opinion

(Apple Daily)  By Sun Ching-yu 孫慶餘.  November 12, 2007.

When I heard Chen Shui-bian said "Someone who couldn't live anymore has the leisure to buy a ticket to visit the Audio-Visual Equipment Expo" and Annette Lu accused a business woman as "pre-arranged" and "dishonest" for daring to tell the truth, I had to ask just what has happened to democracy in Taiwan?  Whatever happened to the Democratic Progressive Party, which came from the people and claimed to represent Taiwan?  Is this the proper attitude of a government towards its people?  Is this what state leaders should be saying?

Worse yet, Ah Bian's senior government officials and media henchmen almost universally supported the opinions of Ah Bian and Annette Lu.  When these media posed the question whether these heckling citizens were real, Ah Bian immediately said: "Only you know!"  Government Information Minister Shieh Jhy-wey said that there is only one word to describe the heckler at the Audio-Visual Equipment Expo: "Fake."  Frank Hsieh said: "If it is true about what the newspapers said that citizen is a Red Shirt/deep blue supporter, then this is no ordinary citizen."  But which newspapers reported that way?  Only the talk shows on FTV and SETV and the newspaper Liberty Times.  No other media reported that way.

Since when are the people not allowed to heckle?  When someone heckles, it is a "conspiracy" with "ulterior motive" as arranged by "the opposing camp."  If you are not a "friend," then you are the "enemy."  If you are a "friend," you must agree and praise.  If you dare to criticize, you are the enemy.  All "enemies" shall be smeared and insulted, including ordinary citizens who dare to complain.   

Indeed, the Red Shirts and the blue camp are part of the Three-In-One-Enemy because they are Communist fellow travelers.  Since the Red Shirts oppose corruption and they also wear red, they are obviously Communist fellow travelers.  It is the KMT which is corrupt, not the Bian government.  If you oppose corruption but you don't oppose the KMT, then it is obvious that you have an ulterior motive.  Such is the logic used by the henchmen at the two television stations (FTV and SETV) and the one newspaper (Liberty Times).  If you fail to stand up to scrutiny according to this logic and you actually exercise the media's right to monitor the government, they you are "a traitor to the people of Taiwan" and "an enemy of the Taiwan government."

(Ming Pao)  If you can't make a living, you should jump into the sea!  November 12, 2007.

In recent days, Charlie who has been selling sunglasses outside the Taipei World Trade Convention Center, Ah Chu who sells pork at the old market in Kaohsiung, a parent named Chang with a child on his back and two students petitioning on behalf of the Lo Sang Sanitarium have been civil heroes for articulating the hardship that "the people of Taiwan can hardly live."

The economy in Taiwan is bad and consumer prices are soaring.  Even though the government's price index is suspect in its definition, the October numbers are still 3.54% higher to reach a 13-year high.  Therefore, it is normal for people to complain.

The problem is what they got when they complained.  Ah Bian said: "China is so great.  There is no lid on the Pacific Ocean.  If you think China is so great, you should swim over there."  "Someone who couldn't live can still attend the Audio-Visual Equipment Expo.  Taiwan is doing very well!"

Annette Lu was even more exciting.  She was the only who put on a show to go over to ask Ah Chu.  After Ah Chu made her complaint, Lu smeared her: "This was a show arranged by a small number of media outlets.  This was manipulated."

Frank Hsieh was just as astonishing: "I can easily find some relatives to protest or abuse Ma Ying-jeou too.  That is very easy."

The storm created by Charlie and Ah Chu is worthy of contemplation.  In ancient times, even a humane emperor who observes the hardship of his people might be sympathetic to their plight.  But we now have a democracy in which whenever a citizen dissents, the government immediate invoke "conspiracy" -- the hecklers are "China fellow travelers," the media set up the show, it is the "Red Shirts" or it is "Ma Ying-jeou's relatives."

... This type of politics has these special characteristics and logic:

1. They deliberately debase themselves and claim to be good and honest weaklings.  Everything is a conspiracy to oppress them.  Through such a logical system, they can rationalize and justify everything and anything that they do.

2. They search among all the conflicts in society and find the one that is most favorable to them.  Then they work on this particular conflict to sever society such that they own the larger piece and the other side gets the smaller piece.  Then they claim all the moral points on top of their conspiracy theory.  This means that they can rationalize everything that they do and only they can attack others while the others cannot attack them (because that would be immoral and conspiratorial).

So if we review the long-term political language and deeds in Taiwan, we find the major points of division such as "unification/independence," "external/local people/culture," "love Taiwan/sell out Taiwan."  The narrative framework about the conspiracy by "non-Taiwanese persons" comes out so readily from that group of people.  The net outcomes is: Nobody can accuse or complain against them for being corrupt and incompetent or abusing power, because that would be a "conspiracy" by "people who are not Taiwanese" and "people who do not love Taiwan."  So when there was public disgust against the corruption of Ah Bian, wasn't this turned into "the Chinese Communist conspiring to oppress Taiwan" and "the Chinese people bullying Taiwan's President"?  When Taiwan's economy ails, wasn't this turned into Taiwan business people not loving Taiwan?

Terms such as "say bad things about Taiwan," "not love Taiwan," "non-Taiwanese people" and "conspiracy" have worked in the past.  When the Red Shirts arose, the same method was used and the issue was blown over.  However, when the Taiwan economy is falling apart on account of incompetence and mismanagement, it is the ordinary citizens who are saying that "they cannot live anymore."  To hint darkly that these people are "Chinese Communist fellow travelers", "tools manipulated by the media" or "Ma Ying-jeou's relatives" becomes a huge joke.

The storm over Charlie and Ah Chu shows that the powers-that-be think that anyone who complains is not Taiwanese and ought to jump into the ocean!

(Taipei Times)  Time to rein in the loose cannon.  Editorial.  November 30, 2007.

It's about time for someone within the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) inner circle to do what Spain's King Juan Carlos did to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and tell President Chen Shui-bian ( 陳水扁 ) to shut up.

Chen, back on the campaign trail in recent weeks after being reinstalled as DPP chairman, has been traveling the nation stumping for the party's legislative candidates at a series of rallies.

But instead of raising the profile and chances of the party's candidates, all Chen has managed to do is focus the media spotlight on himself with a series of foolish remarks.

A few weeks ago he crossed the line when in an attempt to highlight Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's ( 馬英九 ) faux localization effort, he attacked Ma over the inscription on his father's urn.

Shortly after that, he thought it clever to hit back at a heckler with some snide remarks, only serving to spark a wave of copycat attacks and further damage his image and that of his administration.

And just the other day, while at a campaign rally in Shulin ( 樹林 ), Taipei County, Chen raised a few eyebrows when he told the crowd that he was considering imposing martial law if the KMT did not back down on its threat to implement two-step voting in areas under its control during legislative elections.

Whether he was serious or not, raising the specter of martial law was not a wise thing to do. While this kind of fiery rhetoric may strike a chord with hardcore DPP supporters, it is guaranteed to have the opposite effect on more moderate voters -- from whom the party needs support if it is to stand any chance of success in the legislative and presidential elections.

If Chen carries on in this vein he will probably help to ensure a repeat of the 2004 legislative election debacle, when his misguided campaigning arguably contributed to the party losing its best and -- given the new electoral system -- possibly only chance for some time of gaining a legislative majority.