Greens turning blue

Su Beng's support base in his fight for Taiwan independence has been amongst the working classes, especially taxi drivers. Since his return to Taiwan from Japan in 1993, he has worked tirelessly to educate them about Taiwan's history, to increase political awareness and to instill in them a strong sense of Taiwanese identity. He has a force of them called the "Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade"(獨立台灣會). The motorcade has made rounds in Taipei every Saturday and Sunday afternoon for more than ten years, delivering messages over a megaphone- that the Taiwanese need to stand up for Taiwan, to build their own nation, and shake off the shackles of colonialism. In recent years Su Beng has also mobilized his taxi driver base to protest several high level Kuomintang (KMT) officials' meetings with Communist Chinese officials.

Those leaning towards self-determination or independence for Taiwan (as Su Beng and his supporters), and traditionally supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party have been dubbed the “greens” or more collectively, the “pan-greens.”

The “blues” or “pan-blues” are those favoring the opening up of Taiwan to China- in the form of recognizing Chinese educational credentials, greater communication, transportation links and investment opportunities. This is the platform of the Nationalist Chinese Party aka Kuomintang.

Now that we are in the last stretch before Taiwan's presidential election on March 22, it's down to a contest between the green and blue. The run up to the presidential election is always an intense period of time in which the media loves to throw in speculation over which side (green or blue) is gaining momentum and support amongst the public.

So the Taipei Taxi Drivers' Association's announcement that they will officially support the blue presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou on Saturday, March 8th was one such story that was recently circulated in the media. In addition to its announcement, the Taipei Taxi Driver's Association organized a rally supporting Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Monday, March 10th. About a thousand or so taxi drivers turned out for the rally. When asked by television reporters who they’d vote for, some taxi drivers said that they didn’t know whether or not they’d actually vote for Ma.

Why is this such a big deal?

Because in the beginning, back in the day, not long after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed, its support base in large part came from the working classes. The demographic of the average DPP supporter has certainly changed over the years, but this perception remains. In particular, there is a perception that taxi drivers in Taiwan tend to be predominantly green supporters. In the past, groups of taxi drivers have mobilized in support of the green camp. Practically everywhere you go in Taiwan there are yellow taxi cabs to be hailed, so they would seem to be a formidable force of green supporters. To hear of this flip in political alliance would seem to be a huge blow to the green camp.

A few days after the March 10th rally, there were television reports revealing that the KMT had paid taxi drivers NT$1000 per head to attend the rally supporting Ma Ying-jeou.

On March 12, a rally to support Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), the DPP presidential candidate was organized by taxi drivers in Banciao- near the DPP campaign headquarters there. There were about 2000 taxi drivers in attendance.

What is the story behind the Taipei Taxi Driver Association's switch in support?

I'm certain that Su Beng has plenty to say on this topic, and that, amongst other things will be a topic of discussion at our upcoming meeting in a few days.