Tsai Ing-wen and Xi Jinping celebrate Lunar New Year differently
by Wang Zhicheng

The Taiwanese president prayed in a Buddhist ceremony for quake victims and visited Taoist temples, greeting the population and handing out red envelopes. The Chinese president welcomed the New Year with 2,000 guests, business people and Party officials, in the Great Hall of the People. Taiwan’s vice president met with earthquake victims in Hualien.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The presidents of Taiwan and mainland China celebrated Chinese New Year very differently from one another. 

Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen spent the day visiting Buddhist and Taoist temples, greeting people and pilgrims and handing out hóngbāo, red envelopes containing money for good luck in the new year.

China’s Xi Jinping ostensibly spent the first day of the year at home with the family. On Wednesday, the day before Lunar New Year’s Eve, he took part in a soirée with senior party's officials and 2,000 VIP guests.

Today, Ms Tsai visited the Yuhuang Temple in Pingtung, in the south of the island, where she was met by more than a thousand people waiting to welcome her.

Earlier in the day, Tsai visited Tianhou Temple in Taitung City where she handed out red envelopes to a crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 people.

Last night, Lunar New Year's Eve, she went to the Buddhist organisation Dharma Drum Mountain in New Taipei's Jinshan District to take part in the annual Dharma Bell Ringing Assembly, a ceremony believed to wipe away 108 kinds of problems and bring good luck and happiness to the whole country in the new year.

Xi Jinping's New Year's Eve was soberer and, above all, less religious, with a formal ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, along with 2,000 guests from the mainland and overseas Chinese communities, including Chinese business people, political leaders, and politburo members.

The cream of the crop of the People's Republic of China listened to President Xi – who is also party general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and head of the Central Military Commission – say that the country was taking a great leap from "catching up with the times" to "leading the times."

Even if he wanted to, Xi could not have visited a Buddhist or Taoist temple and light a few incense sticks, as hundreds of millions of Chinese do every year. The Party has banned its members from practising any religion, whether in public or in private.

Xi called on CPC members to always focus their work on the aspirations of the people to live a better life, and to always fight for the people and with the people. Yet, in the Great Hall of the People, very few if any of the guests could claim to be of the people.

In Taiwan, Vice President Chen Chien-jen, a Catholic, travelled to Hualien County, which was hard hit on 6 February by an earthquake that killed 17 people and injured almost 300.

At the bell ceremony in Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen also prayed for the earthquake victims.