“Let President Ma continue to serve us, will you?”
“Let President Ma continue to be our president, Will you?
Shouts run into the subway station from one and a half kilometer away, where Ma Ying-jeou’s canvassing gala is heating up. The ceremony master keeps interacting with Ma’s supporters by asking “will you (hao bu hao)”, either in Mandarin or in Hokkien. It is just 9:00 pm on a warm winter night in Taipei.
This is my second DIY trip to Taiwan. Thanks to my Hong Kong student visa, I, a mainlander can get an entry permit to this “Treasure Island”. High level officials opposite the strait are not allowed to witness the election. Tourist groups are also refused by certain authorities. We are the rare lucky dogs.
When we are getting out of the train, groups of people wearing white peaked caps and holding small blue-red flags reverse their way to the train; the caps and flags are printed with Ma and his vice president candidate Wu Den-yih’s photos and slogans “Taiwan: Bravo!”. These people are Ma’s supporters, undoubtedly. One of them hands over his extra flags to me, “Take it.” I shake my head. After participating in Tsai Ing-wen’s canvassing gala in Kaohsiung three days ago, I know this kind of flag is easy to get in the gala, and it is all free.
Taipei’s winter night is not cold enough for a scarf, but I am wearing a Republic of China 101th Anniversary scarf. It is in red, blue and white, which are also the colors of ROC’s national flag, also the KMT’s party flag, embroidered with Taiwan Presidential Palace.
Those who wear this scarf would be considered proponents for Ma Ying-jeou, but I literally was Tsai Ing-wen’s supporter without right to vote. I robbed the scarf from my boyfriend; he was a big fan of Ma.
On stepping out of the National Taiwan University Hospital station, we see a host of policemen, traffic police conducting cars, streaming motorcycles and people. The stage is in the middle of Ketagalan Boulevard directly opposing the Presidential Palace at No. 122 Chongqing Road south, standing about 200 meters away.
Along the east-west boulevard, the south side is 228 Peace Park which commemorates the bloodshed KMT laid on local Taiwanese activists on 28th Feb 1947. Thousands of political prisoners and unforgivable bloody crackdowns during two decades of “white terror” in 38 years of martial law that ended in 1987.
The north is Jieshou (meaning happy birthday to Chiang Kai-shek) Park. Katagalan Boulevard is sandwiched by the Presidential Palace and the East Gate. From its waist to the East Gate, there are filled with people. The 400-meter-long boulevard is wholly under traffic control.
We are elbowing out way from the back to the side, some local signers are entertaining the audience. I tiptoe up a little and see a visiting delegate group from Hong Kong sitting at the front rows facing the stage. They are wearing ugly caps printed “Hong Kong Visiting Delegate”. Representatives from HK pan-democratic parties are the majority, besides, journalism students from HK’s Universities are eager to watch this democratic event that is solely happening in Taiwan, the unique one in all Chinese-speaking districts. They will never imagine, 24 hours later, two pan-democratic delegates have a real fight at the second floor of KMT Election Campaign Headquarter, providing a laughingstock for Taiwanese.
You can hardly turn around in the road between the stage and the East Gate. SNG cars from various Taiwanese TV stations stop at the back stage and telecast the live show. They report that around 120,000 Taipei people are at the gala, congesting the boulevard.
A sense of urgency spread by the Blue media drive Ma’s supporters out at the gala. Polls in past weeks suggest a narrow gap between Ma Ying-jeou and his rival Tsai Ing-wen, or Tsai would defeat Ma in the Green media’s reports. Impartially, Ma takes the lead with 3% to 5% support rate more than Tsai’s.
Temper is easy to lose control at a congested place like fish in a can. We are trying push forward from the side to the front, suddenly, a reversed stream of people knock down others when they are pushing out.
A young man grabbs another man in the stream, and they start to wrangle, one in Cantonese, one in mandarin.
“What are you doing!?”
“None of your business!”
Before a fight starts, a nearby Taiwanese tries to stop them, “Young men, don’t fight or wrangle. We must be peaceful here tonight to support Ma Ying-jeou!”
She repeats it again. The two young men eventually give up and walk away.
It is already 9:35 pm. Ma’s cars is said to have arrived here. We give up, get out of the crowd, detour through the Taipei Hotel, and finally stand at the front of the stage, though more than 100 meters away from it. People on the stage are out of our sight. We merely can watch the screen.
A volunteer standing beside me gives us as many flags as possible. I see people wearing campaign caps, waving flags, small ones with Ma’s photo on them or big ones telling where they are from, “Overseas Chinese Support Delegate” “Cidu Delegate” “Juifang Delegate”.
It is 9: 45 pm that President Ma Ying-jeou, the first lady Chow Mei-ching and his vice president candidate Wu Den-yih appear on the stage. Audiences start cheering.
“Hello, President Ma, and Mei-ching!”
“President Ma, Dong suan (be elected); President Ma, Dong suan (be elected)!”
“President Ma, Dong suan (be elected); President Ma, Dong suan (be elected)!”
Again and again, the crowd is shouting, waving flags, posters, boards.
We are joining them and cheering with them, simultaneously.
The cheering is a first-time-thing in our life, joining in it is also our first time in life.
Ma and his wife wear a vest printed Ma’s full name at the front of it. The first lady doesn’t wear any makeup as always. They step up on the stage and took a 90-angle bow to the audience, in a very polite fashion.
A microphone is passed to Ma Ying-jeou, then Wu Den-yih, and then Lien Chan.
Chow Mei-ching speaks nothing but one request in the end, “Please vote for No. 2 Ma Ying-jeou tomorrow, thanks you very much!” and ends it with a deep bow as always.
After a whole day of full schedule, canvassing from Northern Taiwan to Taichung and joined Ma there who’s canvassing along the western coast from Pingtung to Central Taiwan, Mrs. Ma still remains energetic to the audience. In the past 30 days, she lobbied all over Taiwan for Ma, either shaking hands with every peddler at night market, telling stories for primary school students, or saying hello along streets.
The ceremony master seizes the moment warm up the atmosphere, “Let Mei-ching continue to be our first lady, will you?”
“Certainly!” the loudest reply ever tonight.
Ma’s attempt to kiss his wife on the cheek fails as always. He is pushed slightly aside by Chow Mei-ching once again. She’s worthy the nickname Taiwanese media give her—“Cool Sister” (KuKu sao).
It is near 10 pm when all election campaigns should be over. Ma’s campaign team and KMT party bosses bow and thank the supporters in a row. Chow stand beside her husband with hands held together, holding up a V gesture high which means two in Chinese, as to remind supporters to vote for No.2 Ma-Wu group tomorrow.
24 hours later, the president couple is hugging in the rain in front of audiences to celebrate an unexpected big-margined victory.
The crowd is dropping away, we turn to leave, too. En route, a geek with long hair, glasses and a mask stops to ask us, “Are you mainlanders?” He probably heard our mainland accent.
We are all silent.
I pretend, “No, we are Hong Kongers (in Cantonese).”
The geek continues to talk, “There are many mainland students in my university.”
“Where are you studying?”
“Fu Jen Catholic University”
“Ah, a catholic school, I know it.”
That’s the end of our conversation, we walk away.
Shame twists my throat to tell him the truth. We are mainlanders; we don’t have elections, we never have this cheerful canvassing gala with over 120,000 people yelling for one person, in mainland. No, we get to know who the next president is before he is “elected”. I barely imagine what election is like, how people scream like that, before I witness all this in this island isolated from the mainland for decades. Taiwan, after years’ autocracy, “white terror”, bloodsheds, apologies, poses a democratic and really harmonious role model for the opposite strait.