Recently, DPP protesters attacked a Chinese envoy visiting a Confucius temple in Southern Taiwan, causing not only great embarrassment for President Ma, but also the entire Taiwanese people.
Fist fights, shouting matches, physical threats … and now this. Are these signs of a vigorous democracy or an immature – perhaps violent society?
Here is an English account of the latest incident from AP News:
Angry protesters in southern Taiwan assaulted an envoy from rival China on Tuesday, part of an escalating reaction by the pro-independence opposition to President Ma Ying-jeou’s policy of greater engagement with Beijing.
The attack on Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait is a personal embarrassment to Ma, who has made closer economic and political ties with the communist mainland the centerpiece of his new administration.
In Tuesday’s attack, about a dozen protesters surrounded Zhang at a Confucian temple in the southern city of Tainan, then knocked him to the ground while shouting anti-communist and pro-independence slogans.
“Taiwan does not belong to China,” protesters shouted.
Zhang was helped to his feet by an escort and rushed to a waiting vehicle. He cut his visit short and back to China on Wednesday.
The assault attracted a strong response from China, although Beijing was careful not to discount Ma’s efforts to push for closer mainland ties.
“We express strong indignation and fiercely condemn such barbaric acts of violence, and demand severe punishment for the troublemakers,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement posted on its Web site.
Yet it also said the incident “cannot block the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”
Zhang is a well-recognized figure in Taiwan. He was formerly the spokesman for Beijing on Taiwan affairs, often depicted on Taiwanese television as making strident comments that many Taiwanese regarded as offensive.
The attack on Zhang comes several weeks before a more significant visit by Chen Yun-lin, Zhang’s boss and the point man in pushing for unity across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait.
That visit is supposed to provide tangible evidence of reduced tensions between Taipei and Beijing and give Ma’s program of greater engagement with the mainland a big boost.
Promises of better relations with China helped propel Ma’s Nationalists to an overwhelming victory in legislative elections in January, and the presidential poll two months later.
But since then, the bloom on the China rose has faded, as Ma’s promises of a brighter economic day have largely fizzled, and Taiwanese have watched in dismay as health inspectors have stripped supermarket shelves of a succession of tainted Chinese food products.
Tuesday’s assault on Zhang reflected a profound lack of agreement among Taiwanese on how relations with China should proceed, said political scientist Hsu Yung-ming of Taipei’s Soochow University.
“Ma should have first sought consensus within Taiwan on cross-strait policies instead of zealously pushing forward his policy of close exchanges with (the mainland),” he said. “Now there can be more conflict when other Chinese envoys visit.”
On Saturday, Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party is scheduled to hold a mass rally in Taipei to support its claims that that Ma’s China policies are undermining Taiwan’s sovereignty and putting the island’s de facto independence and its democratic political system at risk.
The DPP is particularly miffed at Ma’s readiness to compromise with China on symbols that Chen put at the forefront of his own pro-independence administration — particularly his insistence that the island should be referred to officially as “Taiwan” rather than the Nationalists’ “Republic of China” formulation.
The rally is seen as a litmus test of whether Ma can ride out the current wave of DPP-led China discontent, or whether his ambitious attempts to dampen one of the post-World War II world’s most enduring political conflicts will come up short.
A large crowd — say in excess of 150,000 — would provide ballast to the DPP’s claims that Ma is out of touch with Taiwanese opinion, while a smaller turnout would suggest that notwithstanding Tuesday’s incident in Tainan, the new president is well on course.
We’ll keep you updated on the rally this weekend.