According to The Taipei Times, the festival, co-sponsored by mainland China‘s reality TV show Sing! China and the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs, is part of the memorandums of understanding on cultural and arts events signed by Taipei and Shanghai.
However, the event drew widespread criticism from students and pro-independence groups. On Saturday representatives of the NTU student council criticized the university for renting the school’s athletic field for the concert, saying that it prevented students from using the field and that the organizers had damaged facilities.
During the concert supporters of Taiwan independence gathered outside the venue, shouting anti-China slogans. The protesters claimed that the concert was part of a “united front” strategy to advance Beijing’s pro-unification agenda. Posters advertising the event referred to NTU as “Taipei City Taiwan University” (臺北市臺灣大學), avoiding the use of the word “national”, which the Chinese Communist government has listed as a politically sensitive term that should not be applied to Taiwan.
Mainland Chinese media reported that the event organizer, Mu Chieh T’a Corporation, described the event as “a pure public service activity, as a great platform for interaction between the people of the two areas of Shanghai and Taipei.”
Although the protesters had purchased tickets, they were prevented by staff to enter the venue. Clashes broke out and at about 4 p.m. pro-independence activists rammed the entrance. Later they were joined by student groups, who also demonstrated against the event.
As Hong Kong Free Press reported, protesters waved Taiwan independence flags and held anti-China banners that read: “Refuse to be the Chinese Taiwan University,” “Give back our NTU field,” and “Free Lee Ming-cheh.” Some people threw eggs and other objects onto the stage to disrupt the concert.
As the situation got out of control, the school requested that the event be cancelled for safety reasons. At 4:40 p.m. the organizers announced the end of the festival, which was originally scheduled to end at 10 p.m.
But tensions continued to escalate and clashes broke out between pro-independence and pro-China groups. Three people were injured.
The group that is allegedly responsible for the eruption of violent scuffles is the Party for the Promotion of Chinese Unification (中華統一促進黨, PPCU). The party was founded in 2005 by Zhang Anle (張安樂), a notorious Taiwanese gangster and member of the Bamboo Gang, one of Taiwan’s most powerful triads.
The PPCU is an openly pro-Beijing organization that promotes Taiwan’s “peaceful unification” with mainland China under the “one country, two systems” (一國兩制) formula which the Communist Party used to incorporate Hong Kong and Macau. The PPCU argues that “Taiwan independence means war” (台獨就是代表戰爭).
Zhang Anle, who is commonly known in Taiwan as the “white wolf”, spent years in mainland China and has ties with the Communist Party.
Footage from September 24 shows a man holding a stick and hitting a protester, whose neck was injured and bled profusely. The police later arrested one Hu Ta-kang (胡大剛), a pro-unification advocate.
At a press conference held by the PPCU on September 25, Zhang Anle and Hu Ta-kang explained their version of the events. Hu stated that he and another PPCU member, Yang Shao-jui (楊紹瑞), had gone to the concert because they wanted to know what it was about.
Hu claimed that he didn’t bring the stick with him but “found” it on the street and used it after having been provoked by a pro-independence protester. Hu’s statements drew ridicule from netizens who wondered how easy it is to find sticks on the streets of Taipei.
Zhang Anle started the press conference by saying that the members of his party “fought well” but he refuted accusations that they attacked protesters first. He claimed that pro-independence groups were violent and the PPCU defended themselves.
Zhang said that Li Po-chang (李柏璋), a former aide to Taipei City councillor Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠), followed and verbally abused a female party member on the street. “Yang Shao-jui intervened and Li Po-chang suddenly attacked him,” Zhang said. When Hu Ta-kang saw that Yang was being beaten, he stepped in to defend him from Li Po-chang, he said.
Zhang called Li “a thief who shouts ‘catch the thief'” (作賊喊抓賊), a Chinese phrase to describe hypocritical behaviour. PPCU members were holding banners displaying this sentence during the press conference.
Later on Monday Li Po-chang at a press conference denied the assault charges. He said that he had had a verbal altercation with members of the PPCU. When he left the athletic field they followed and insulted him, taking advantage of the fact that he was alone. When he responded to the insults, they attacked him. Li maintained that he was only defending himself.
Hu Ta-kang dismissed the accusations as “rumours” and expressed sadness over the fact that senior members of the pro-independence camp “teach future leaders to tell lies.”
The Chief of Taiwan’s National Police Agency Ch’en Chia-ch’in (陳家欽) stated that the police will investigate the matter and “will not pardon” illegal acts. He said that gang members might be “disrupting people’s rights and freedom under the guise of civil associations”, adding that in order to maintain social order the police of Taipei City and New Taipei City will join forces to crack down on triads.
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