Fights broke out in between gangs attending Lantern Festival processions in at least two Taiwan cities last night, and the violence continued tonight in Taidong (Taitung). The Lantern Festival is traditionally celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month of the Chinese New Year.
While the traditional Chinese celebration focuses on pretty lanterns, strolling with the family to view the lanterns, and eating sweet snacks like tung-yuan, on the ‘renegade island’ of Taiwan, native Taiwanese celebrate with fireworks, and noisy processions.
Gangs associated with temples participate in processions which include acts of bravado, including self-mutilation with swords (a practice I’ve never seen written about, but have personally witnessed), jumping over flames, and being shot at by fireworks rockets.
Monday night February 22, a brawl erupted in Changhua City involving hundreds of people. Police fired two warning shots into the air while trying to subdue the violence. Meanwhile, in Taidong City, a bakery owner inadvertently set off his fireworks too early, while a processional group was passing his store, angering members of the group and sparking a brawl involving between 20 and 30 people. One man was hospitalized due to an eye injury.
Tonight, Tuesday February 23, a brawl again erupted during festivities in Taidong City. One participant had a finger cut off and another was stabbed in his arm.