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Protesters Step up Pressure on Chen
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More than 1 million protesters took to Taipei's streets on Friday night in a bid to step up the pressure on embattled leader Chen Shui-bian to resign over alleged corruption.


Campaign organizers said the number of people who took part in the protest topped 1 million, far higher than the original forecast of half a million.


Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou who is also the head of the Kuomintang (KMT) said the march was the second largest political demonstration in Taipei's history, after a 2004 KMT rally ahead of the island's "presidential" election.




The protesters marched a 5.5-kilometer route circling Chen's office and nearby residence to culminate the week-long anti-Chen campaign.


Highlighting its renewed determination, the march took place in driving rain as Typhoon Shanshan skirted along the eastern coast.


The bad weather didn't appear to affect the mood of the marchers, many of whom were dressed in red to symbolize their anger with Chen's leadership.


The protesters waved flashlights, chanted slogans demanding Chen's resignation and gesticulated the thumbs-down sign to vent their anger at Chen over a string of corruption scandals.


"Chen already lost the people's trust and he is unfit to rule anymore. He must quit to save Taiwan," said Michael Huang, 47, who marched with his wife and two children.


The Huang family and some fellow protesters trod on an effigy of Chen in a show of anger.


"We must succeed to create a clean and corruption-free Taiwan," said campaign leader Shih Ming-teh, who launched the "1 Million People Depose Chen" drive on September 9.


"We stand here today in heavy rains because our leader made grave mistakes ... Ah Bian steps down," Shih told the crowd when he began the rally, referring to Chen using a nickname.


The march started at around 6:00 PM, one hour early, because a larger-than-expected crowd gathered outside the "presidential" office.


"The Taiwan people have won," Shih said at the end of the procession, addressing a mass of red-clad demonstrators in front of the Taipei Railway Station. "One million people have been victorious."


Shih's camp, which organized the round-the-clock protest now in its seventh day, has threatened to call for island-wide strikes if Chen does not respond to the campaign in October.  


Chen's office said his schedule was unaffected by the protest. It rejected media reports that the "president" and his family were to be taken to the Taiwan's top military command center for protection.


Nearly 10,000 police were deployed to maintain order amid fears that the protest could trigger clashes between pro- and anti-Chen campaigners.


Shih, a former chairman of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has said he is prepared to continue his campaign until the middle of 2008, when the Taiwan leader's term in office expires.


He warned the DPP against mobilizing its supporters to interfere with the march, saying Chen would bear responsibility for any violence. The warning came as the anti-Chen movement looked set to spread after unions vowed to create havoc at the main airport and on highways.


Organizers said thousands would stage a sit-in protest at the entrance of the airport no later than October 10.


(China Daily September 16, 2006)


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