TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Complete chaos and multiple injuries ensued when former gang leader and current head of the Chinese Unity Promotion Party (CUPP, 統促黨) Chang An-le (張安樂), who is nicknamed the “White Wolf," carried the sedan bearing a symbolic statue of Matsu for 10 minutes at the Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage Procession in Changhua, Taiwan on Monday (April 8).
Late Monday evening, despite the presence of more than 300 police officers who formed "human walls" on either side where Chang helped carry the sedan chair which holds the goddess Matsu for a mere 10 minutes, complete anarchy followed with people flailing clubs and hurling bottles. After the dust settled, at least 5 people sustained injuries requiring hospitalization, including a reporter for CtiTV News (中天新聞), three police officers, and Changhua County Police Bureau Police Captain Chung Chen-pang (鐘振邦), reported Apple Daily.
Because the area where the incident occurred, the Mingsheng underpass, is a choke point where violence has broken out before, police had identified it as a key area to monitor. This year, 320 police officers were deployed on the spot, an increase of over 100 more than last year, according to the report.
Just before 7 p.m. on Monday, crowds started to gather, and by 10 p.m., police had cordoned off the area to allow the sedan to pass through. Dajia Jenn Lann Temple (鎮瀾宮) Chairman Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) carried the sedan through the underground passage for five minutes without incident.
Calm before the storm at Mingsheng underpass. (CNA image)
However, when he handed it over to Chang, people on the sides of the road began to shout and tried to break through the police cordon. Someone threw a beer bottle, followed by others who began hurling clubs and bottles, almost damaging the Dajia Matsu sedan.
Pushing and shoving soon ensued, and police began dousing the angry mob with pepper spray, causing some to seek medical treatment.
During the clash, a police officer surnamed Ho's glasses were broken and he suffered a contusion to his right leg. A member of Taiwan's Thunder Squad police force surnamed Hsu suffered injuries to his eyes and arms after being splashed with pepper spray.
During the tussle, a woman was knocked down on the ground in front of the sedan, and young man who shouted at the police was taken down to the turf by officers.
The CtiTV News reporter injured in the melee told Apple Daily that he had sustained injuries when a friend of an injured pilgrim and a paramedic had gotten into an argument. When he went to interview people on the scene, they told him to stop filming, before he was set upon by the angry mob.
Screenshot of CtiTV reporter being assaulted. (Changhua Police Department image)
The reporter said that he had not only been punched in the head and kicked, but his camera was also smashed. He said some police officers tried to rush in to protect him were also assaulted.
He said that he felt dizzy and went to the hospital to be examined. After receiving treatment, he reported his injuries to the police.
Changhua County Police Department Captain Fang Yang-ning (方仰寧), visited the hospital to console the wounded policemen and journalist.
"White Wolf" Chang brushed off the violence by saying "That shows everyone's enthusiasm," according to the report. He added that the beliefs cause emotion and that they were too enthusiastic, inevitably leading to conflict.
Chang immediately left the scene after the incident and police took 20 people in for questioning early this morning. Four of whom have been initially arrested for assault and are still being questioned.
Netizens were very surprised at the appearance of the White Wolf at the pilgrimage:
"Dajia Matsu dyed red."
"Changhua rushes to lose to the China Unity Promotion Party."
"This time the people of Changhua lost."
The annual pilgrimage is one of the largest folk religious traditions in Taiwan, practiced for over 200 years. Every year, the Matsu idol is carried in a sedan by followers for over 400 km, from Miaoli, south to Dajia near Taichung, and then to Chiayi and back.