Taiwan Opposition Draws Thousands to Protest Ma’s Administration

Taiwan’s opposition rallied tens of thousands of people today to protest the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou, whose popularity has plummeted to the lowest since he won office.

“We demand that Premier Sean Chen be held accountable for the island’s weak economy,” Jason Lin, spokesman of the Democratic Progressive Party, said by phone.

More than 54,000 protesters joined the rally, according to Liao Heng-yu, public order division chief at Taipei City Police Department. Lin said 150,000 demonstrators took part. Organizers had targeted participation by 100,000.

Ma’s approval rating has fallen to 13 percent since his re-election last January with 52 percent of the popular vote, according to a December poll by Taipei-based television network, TVBS. The International Monetary Fund estimates Taiwan’s economy grew at a rate of 1.3 percent in 2012, the slowest pace since the 2009 global recession.

Protesters also called for regulators, including the Fair Trade Commission and the National Communications Commission, to block the sale of Hong Kong-listed Next Media Ltd.’s Taiwan assets to prevent a monopoly, Lin said. A group of companies plans to buy Next Media Taiwan print and television units for a total NT$17.5 billion ($604 million).

Tsai Shao-Chung, president of Want Want Chinatimes Group, which publishes the China Times and the Commercial Times, is among the buyers.

Fiscal changes and reforms to the island’s social welfare system are also among the opposition’s concerns. The island’s aging population is straining its welfare and pension system, Ma said on Nov. 21, adding that the government will review reform proposals by this month.

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