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Taiwan Protesters Clashing with Police

More than 60,000 supporters of Taiwan's opposition party protested Saturday to demand an independent inquiry into an election-eve assassination attempt on Chen Shui-bian that they say swung the poll.


Led by chairman Lien Chan of the opposition Nationalist Party, they waved flags and tooted horns at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in the second major demonstration after the hotly disputed election on March 20.


Around-the-clock protests and the violent storming of election commission offices have divided the island of 23 million. China views the pro-independence Chen as a serious threat to Asian stability.


The Nationalists have warned of "endless" protests if their demands are not met and Lien said they could hold another rally on April 10. "We will continue to let Mr Chen Shui-bian know that he must bow to people power," Lien told the cheering crowd. "We demand the truth. We will not stop until the truth is clear."


Chen won the election by less than 30,000 votes out of more than 13 million cast, the day after he was shot and injured slightly in the stomach while campaigning in an open-top jeep in the southern city of Tainan. Lien says the shooting caused a swelling of sympathy votes and raised suspicions it may have been staged.


"The whole shooting episode was suspicious. This election was unfair," said elementary school teacher Lu Shu-yuei. "I have no respect for him and I don't trust our government," she told reporters.


Clash with Police


After the rally ended, a few hundred people walked to the square in front of the nearby "presidential" office to continue their demonstration. The protest began peacefully, but shortly after 1 am (1700 GMT), the crowd tried to storm a barricade and clashed with helmeted riot police who used their shields to push them back.


Some protestors who threw bottles, chairs and road barriers were detained. No one appeared to be seriously injured.


Lien led half a million people to the square on March 27 to dispute the election's outcome. The protest was Taiwan's biggest and ended a week-long sit-in outside Chen Shuibian's office. "After today, we're going to wind down the rallies. We're not going to hold daily rallies any more, maybe weekly or bi-weekly," said Su Chi, one of Lien's top aides.


Su said the opposition will focus on a vote recount and the investigation into the shooting. "If these clouds are not cleared away, Chen's presidency will be marred for four straight years," he said.


The Nationalists have filed a lawsuit to nullify Chen's razor-thin victory, and at a hearing Friday the judges gave both sides five days to agree the terms of a recount. The lawsuit also cites voting irregularities and a record 330,000 invalid ballots cast.


Chen has agreed to a full recount, which would include the spoiled ballots. However, his Democratic Progressive Party has rejected a proposal by the Nationalist Party to pass a special law that would allow an independent inquiry into the bizarre shooting on March 19


In a bid to meet opposition demands, Chen Shuibian permitted a team of US forensic experts to examine his wound and gave them access to evidence in the case. Before returning to the United States, the team said Chen's injury was indeed a gunshot wound, but said further conclusions required more analysis of data.


(China Daily April 5, 2004)

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