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Passengers on Ma's BRT ride may have been plants

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Local media reported yesterday that passengers were planted during President Ma Ying-jeou's ride on the Bus Rapid Transit of Taichung (BRT), raising questions over the integrity of the positive reviews of the newly implemented transportation system.

Following media reports of Ma's BRT ride on Saturday, July 26, suspicions over the integrity of the positive reviews about the BRT began to surface. The suspicion stemmed from a photo where the president is seen shaking hands with an elderly woman whose seat was marked with her nametag.

Several citizens reported their findings to local media which spurred mass coverage of the story, bringing into question the provenance of the passengers who accompanied Ma. Outspoken citizens have gone on to criticize that the passengers were planted to give the BRT a positive image.

During an interview with press yesterday, Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) dismissed accusations of planting fake passengers and said that the Transportation Bureau of the Taichung City Government invited representative passengers to the event.

As it would seem strange that Ma would ride the BRT without civilian passengers, Hu said that the bureau decided to invite passengers for the ride. However, as a public invitation to ride with the president would greatly strain the amount of seats available, the bureau decided to invite Taichung citizens with enough representative clout to accompany Ma. The passengers have all reflected positively on the service, Hu said.

According to the Taichung Transportation Bureau, the six passengers invited to ride and represent the diversity in Taichung demographics are former Tunghai University Principal Mei Ko-wang (梅可望), an elderly couple, a pair of sisters and a passenger with physical disabilities and a family member of the passenger.

Ma Criticized for Altering Photos of 'Planted' Passengers

Ma received criticism yesterday when citizens discovered an altered photo of the president and his fellow BRT riders on Ma's social media page. The discovery has reportedly made citizens further question the integrity of the president and the lauded reviews of the BRT.

The photo in question, when viewed on the Taichung City Government's website, shows Ma shaking hands with an elderly lady with her name labeled on her seat. However, in a similar picture that is on the president's Facebook, the name tag was doctored to match the color of the elderly woman's seat.

Citizens have stated that Ma has put on a show to boost his reputation and that the action is reminiscent of North Korea.

The Presidential Office has refused to comment on the photo, since the Facebook of the president is managed by the Kuomintang (KMT). When questioned, personnel of the KMT have said that the removal of the elderly lady's name was to protect her privacy.

July 30, 2014    ludahai_twn@
The BRT simply isn't ready for prime time, yet. This entire project is a debacle thus far. The local government should have waited until it was ready to open. Regardless, it is also creating other problems as well, especially in the 慢車道.
July 30, 2014    curtisakbar@
The passengers were obviously plants, how can you claim 'the six passengers invited to ride ... represent the diversity in Taichung demographics' when there isn't an Aboriginal or other non Chinese residents? I have been to Taichung and there are a lot of Indians, Vietnamese and other South East Asians. It is almost like a racist propaganda event, these are the faces of Taichung that we want people to see. The other residents are minorities and will be bad for votes, so will be hidden away.
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A nearly identical version of the photo of President Ma and an elderly woman shaking hands is seen, however the nametag of the elderly woman has been digitally removed, which some have alleged was an attempt to hide the fact that the passengers were planted to make for better photos. See story on page 16

(CNA)

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