TAIPEI (CNA) – Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) braved heavy rain as they took to the streets of Taipei on June 1 to support a potential presidential bid by the mayor in 2020.
The Republic of China (ROC) flag was a dominant feature of the rally, with many participants passionately waving ROC flags, wearing hats or T-shirts featuring the flag, or putting ROC-themed stickers on their faces.
Some were also clad in red campaign-style vests printed with the slogan: “Han Kuo-yu, president of the common people.” The crowd started to gather on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office before noon. Several KMT lawmakers, such as Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安), Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) and Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) and Yunlin County Magistrate Zhang Li-shan (張麗善) also showed up at the rally to support Han.
Event organizers estimated that nearly 400,000 people joined the rally.
A 61-year-old man, named Hsieh Chih-chuan (謝志泉) from Taoyuan City’s Zhongli District, said he has supported Han since 2016 when the mayor was general manager of Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co.
“At first, I thought he behaved like a gangster, but then realized he is pretty real and dares to speak the truth,” Hsieh told CNA. He said Han is the first politician he has admired since the end of the era of former President Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), who died in 1988.
Another rally participant, a 17-year-old man from Keelung City who asked to be identified only by his surname Chen (陳), said he was there mostly because of his father, who is a big fan of Han.
However, Chen said he would like Han to be elected president because he wants to see Taiwan “get rich” (發大財), a reference to a famous campaign slogan used by the mayor.
Flanked by supporters chanting “victory for Han Kuo-yu,” Han arrived at the rally at around 4:45 p.m. and it took him about 10 minutes to reach the stage.
In his speech, Han criticized the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration for failing in almost every major policy area, naming the economy, foreign affairs and cross-strait ties. He also accused President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of using slogans such as “loving Taiwan” and “defending sovereignty” to trick voters into supporting her party.
“For 2020, Han Kuo-yu hereby announces that he is ready to take on any important position and willing to risk life and limb to defend the ROC,” Han said, calling on Taiwanese to vote the DPP out of office next year.
Han said if he has the opportunity to shoulder a position like the presidency, he will endeavor to ink free trade agreements with Taiwan’s major allies, establish free economic zones, seek diplomatic breakthroughs, and ensure peaceful cross-strait interactions.
According to the Taipei City Police Department’s Zhongzheng First Precinct, the right to use Ketagalan Boulevard and surrounding roads for the Saturday rally was obtained by a private organization called the “Culture of Universal Love Foundation” (財團法人博愛文化基金會).
The precinct said the stated purpose of the rally was “to appeal to the government to focus more on character education and to advocate for peace in Taiwan and the happiness of the people.” The rally comes only days before the KMT is to release a final list of candidates to take part in its presidential primary on June 10.
They include Han, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘), former New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), former Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), former Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) and National Taiwan University political science professor Chang Ya-chung (張亞中).
Han is the only one of the six who has not yet officially announced his intention to compete in the KMT primary, having said only that he does not oppose the idea of the party including his name in the primary.
The KMT plans to select its 2020 presidential candidate based on the results of public opinion polls, which will be conducted by five polling firms between July 5 and July 15. The winner will be officially nominated during the party’s next national congress on July 28. ●