DPP holds parallel Taiwan independence march in Kaohsiung

DPP condemns Chinese election interference at independence rally in Kaohsiung

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David Spencer

David Spencer

KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) - The DPP’s "Anti-annexation, Protect Taiwan"(反併吞、護台灣) rally took place Saturday along the World Games Avenue in Kaohsiung’s Zuoying District.

Against the backdrop of the spectacular National Stadium in Kaohsiung, in excess of 10,000 party activists gathered to hear speeches from a host of senior DPP officials, including the Kaohsiung Mayoral candidate Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁).

If the purpose of this event was to persuade swing voters in Kaohsiung to vote for the DPP’s candidates, then it was a less than productive effort. The assemblage was a partisan crowd of hardcore DPP supporters, and the rally’s location, far from the city center, meant there was next to no passing interest. Albeit, if the DPP wanted to put on a show of solidarity and stake their independence credentials, with the TV cameras present, then they certainly achieved that objective.

Image Credit: David Spencer

The rally was strung out along the sidewalk, rather than held in the plaza next to the stadium, presumably so those in attendance could benefit from the shade of the trees that line this broad boulevard. Saturday was a typically tropical Kaohsiung day and most people in attendance were happy to make use of the myriad of banners and placards that were handed out, to either shade or fan themselves.

Activists had been bussed in from across Kaohsiung and the south of Taiwan. Some DPP strategists will doubtless be a little concerned that the majority of those in attendance were fairly elderly, in light of relations with China supposedly of a bigger concern to younger constituents. Despite their age, the participants were noticeably vocal and at all not shy in voicing their anti-Chinese sentiments.

Image Credit: David Spencer

Brandishing placards bearing images of the DPP’s candidates in Kaohsiung, as well as some bearing anti-KMT and Communist sentiment, the crowd rose to every cue, shouting slogans and cheering their heroes. Winnie-the Pooh was a prominent feature as speaker after speaker lined up to highlight the KMTs links to the Chinese Communist Party and warn that a vote for the KMT was a vote for Xi Jinping (習近平).

Image Credit: David Spencer

Image Credit: David Spencer

In his keynote speech, Chen Chi-mai warned that, in the past, many Taiwanese businesses had moved to China, leaving behind financial debt in Taiwan and contributing to higher unemployment rates here. He confidently predicted that, as the US-China trade war continues to escalate, these Taiwanese businesspeople have begun returning to Taiwan, claiming that doing so would help the economic development of Taiwan and Kaohsiung.

He also slammed the influence of fake news on the current election campaign insinuating that it was affecting the economic and political stability of Taiwan. He pointed the finger squarely at the KMT for this, suggesting that they were working with the CCP in spreading fake news, and named a number of specific KMT candidates whom he claimed were complicit in this subversion.

Image Credit: David Spencer

Chen said that the whole world was watching this election to see if the Taiwanese people can make a wise decision in the face of this barrage of false information originating in China proper. He urged those present to use their vote to stop China from harming Taiwan’s democracy and to show the world that Taiwan is a country committed to pursuing independence and sovereignty. He said the people of Kaohsiung need to show courage in identifying and dismissing fake news stories with a mindset towards protecting both Kaohsiung's and Taiwan’s forthright democracy.

Kang Yu-cheng (康裕成), the chairman of Kaohsiung City Council echoed these sentiments. She claimed that China was using secret financial funds and fake social media and internet accounts to try and influence Taiwan’s elections. She urged the people of Kaohsiung and all of Taiwan to unite to protect Taiwan’s freedom, democracy, and human rights.

Image Credit: David Spencer

Commenting on the rally, the KMT’s Mayoral candidate in Kaohsiung claimed that it was all about the DPP trying to win the Kaohsiung Mayoral election, and accused his opponents of always engaging in ideological confrontation. He said his priority was improving the economy of Kaohsiung and the people who live there, but he failed to present any specifics on how he would do this.

The crowds of DPP activists flocking back down World Games Avenue towards the MRT, or clambering back on their coaches heading home, will no doubt have left this event re-energized, motivated, and determined to ensure that Kaohsiung remains under the DPP after these next elections.

Image Credit: David Spencer

The current polls suggest that they have a lot of work to do to make that a reality. While this event was heavy on rhetoric, there wasn’t a great deal of substance and policy on offer to underpin it. Crucially, there was no reference whatsoever to any sort of independence referendum, which was the topic on everybody’s lips on Saturday at the independence rally in Taipei.

The one person who was notable in their absence from this event was the singular DPP political figure who has dominated Kaohsiung politics for the past twelve years. For more than a decade, Chen Chu (陳菊) has been the embodiment of DPP politics in Kaohsiung, and there is a sense that the party is struggling to find an identity in the city without her.

There remains still just over a month until election day. In Kaohsiung, the DPP has a lot of work to do if they are going to be celebrating on the night of the 24th November. Although this rally may have gotten their activists buzzing, whether it will have won them any more votes in Kaohsiung, or across Taiwan, remains to be seen.