President Ma Ying-jeou stayed overnight at the home of a fruit grower in central Taiwan and visited his orchard Saturday, accompanied by a former ranking official of the previous administration.
President Ma’s choice of the household of Chiang Wen-sheng’s home in Fengyuan, Taichung, to start his home stay program in a bid to learn more about the life of the people, has drawn attention because a lot of Chiang family members are believed to lean toward the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Antonio Chiang, elder brother of Chiang Wen-sheng, was formerly deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) under the DPP administration and had written the inaugural speech for former President Chen Shui-bian.
Antonio Chiang has turned into a political commentator since leaving the NSC. His latest article criticized Ma for being “insensitive to public woes”after his administration recently decided to raise the monthly pensions for elderly farmers by only NT$316 to bring the payment to N$6,316 (US$210) starting next year.
Antonio Chiang said Ma had breakfast with locals, being treated to such traditional Taiwanese dishes as taro rice porridge, soybean cheese, peanuts, radish omlettes and fried vegetables.
The president repeatedly expressed his appreciation for Chiang family members who had been preparing the breakfast since around 4 a.m.
Ma later went to Chiang’s orchard, where he picked oranges and chatted with farmers, praising them for their efforts in preventing fruit flies.
Noting that the media was focusing on the exchanges between him and President Ma, Antonio Chiang said: “I’m also a guest here.”He added that his mother and younger brothers were responsible for hosting Ma.
Ma shook hands with Antonio Chiang before leaving Chiang’s family for a hectic schedule of more than a dozen campaign activities, including stumping for several Kuomintang legislative candidates in Taichung City, one of them being Antonio Chiang’s nephew, Johnny Chiang, a former minister of the Government Information Office. The legislative elections will take place Jan. 14 along with the presidential race.
When President Ma arrived at Chiang’s household late Friday, he was presented with an amulet by Antonio’s 91-year-old mother. She explained that she gave the amulet on behalf of several senior citizens, who thought Ma was a man of integrity and conscientiousness, and one of them obtained the amulet from a temple.
President Ma said that “peace and well-being are the sincerest wishes of every Taiwanese,”and that he would “keep in mind the good will”of the elderly gift givers.
Ma wore the amulet when he attended the inauguration of his campaign office in Taichung City later in the day.
On Sunday, Ma will attend presidential campaign activities in Changhua and Nantou counties to solidify support in central Taiwan. He will stay in a student dormitory at the National University of Kaohsiung that night to learn about student needs under the home stay program.
Ma undertook a similar program during his last presidential election campaign, during which he stayed at 98 host families.