Friday, November 18, 2011

A run-in with Tsai Ing-wen

Went over to Qingshan Temple a couple days ago to see if their annual festival was on. When I got there I was told that Tsai Ing-wen was about to arrive, and minutes later she did, greeted by a blast of firecrackers, a phalanx of unobstrusive security guards, and dozens of excited supporters. She was so mobbed that I could barely tell where she was in the crowd, let alone see her. It was on an entirely different level than Hau Lung-bin's visit a couple of years ago, when a friend was able to push her way forward and shake his hand (and yell "Go Taiwan!" at him).
I followed the mass of people to Qingshan Temple, where Tsai prayed to the King of Qingshan and the temple's chairman gave her his endorsement. She followed this with a speech, mostly in Taiwanese but with the odd Mandarin phrase. My Taiwanese is far from the "political speech" level, but I was able to make out "We are all Taiwanese", and Mandarin sentences like "Anyone who identifies with Taiwan is Taiwanese" and "Taiwan is a multi-ethnic nation" made the theme pretty clear. I thought she came off a bit stilted, but that may just be her style- slow, purposeful and not overly emotional. The betel nut-chewing crowd drifted a little towards the middle, and I felt some of them seemed unsure about the "we are all Taiwanese" idea, though that just might be my prejudices about the very Tai-ke audience.
When Tsai finished she came down from the temple steps and gave a quick interview, and followed by some hand-shaking. I managed to shake her hand probably only by dint of very long arms, and being an extremely obvious foreigner.

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