The MRT and streets surrounding the disembarkation point of the Kaohsiung Cultural Center were already swarming with supporters of all ages by noon, despite the official start time being 1.30 p.m. The atmosphere was positive and determined with all and sundry decked out in demonstration gear, for the most part adorned with official “Reset Kaohsiung” stickers and bearing homemade signs.
Meanwhile, the pro-Han parade in the north of the city attracted an estimated 300,000 supporters but had drizzled down to a few hundred by 5 p.m., one hour before it was scheduled to finish.
The Han camp announced its parade on December 8, perhaps with hopes of keeping Han fans from being influenced by the legions of voters eager to recall him. Earlier this week, Han warned people who do not reside in Kaohsiung not to participate in the rally to recall him as mayor.
Much was made of the possibility for conflict with bringing out two diametrically opposed groups to the city on the same day. Kaohsiung police stationed two officers in every MRT carriage, and in an unusual move, the U.S. representative office in Taipei urged citizens to avoid the recall rally.
However, both events went by peacefully.
Rousing cries of “Recover Kaohsiung! Protect Taiwan!” and “Chao Bao, Han Kuo-yu, Xia Tai!” (Idiot, Han, step down!) rang through the streets with a calm confidence amid an almost festive atmosphere. Taiwanese political humor was also on strong display, with renditions of the SpongeBob-inspired tune from a recent internet meme “Kuo-yu, Chao Bao, Kuo-yu Chao Bao, Kuo-yu, chao boa!” (Kuo-yu, uneducated fool!).
There were numerous witty takes on the perception of Han being a bit of a twit, including a demonstrator dressed as Han with a clown mask, accompanied by a recording of some of Han’s more egregious comments.
When I asked participants why they attended the recall rally, everyone was exceptionally clear: Han has done nothing for Kaohsiung and they have had enough.
“Kaohsiung hasn’t changed, we’ve been conned by this liar,” said A-Hu, a 72-year-old civil servant. “Of his election policies, not a single one has come to fruition.”
“I didn’t vote for him. No one got rich. He’s running for president only because he wants to get rich himself.”
Student Pathy, 20, who was watching from the sidelines, simply described Han as “ludicrous.”
“I don’t even see Han around,” said Johnny, 36, a Taiwanese-American resident of Kaohsiung. “It’s like we don’t have a mayor in Kaohsiung. He’s on leave, or on vacation, or just wasted somewhere,” he said, referencing allegations by KMT contemporaries that Han enjoys drinking and mahjong.
“On a score of one to ten, he probably scores zero.”
“Kaohsiung is getting worse,” said Mei-ling, a 46-year-old businesswoman. “The current mayor says he has re-laid roads. Mr. Han says it’s a big change, but I don’t think so.”
“He’s not qualified to be president either. What is he qualified for at all?”
Many attendees expressed fears about the future of Taiwan’s democracy, going as far as to say if Han wins the upcoming presidential election, “Taiwan is over.”
Several mentioned the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and Chinese influence in Taiwan’s media as to why the country should vote against Han in January to protect its hard-won democracy.
Most attendees appeared to hail from Kaohsiung or Tainan, with Yin estimating that 80 percent were local city residents.
The second stage of the recall process will require a further 230,000 new signatures. The final vote, should that be achieved, needs 25 percent of the city’s 2.28 million eligible voters to vote in favor while outnumbering “no” votes – around 570,000 in total. Today’s strong turnout has left Yin feeling confident that their mission will be achieved.
Read full report here: