Taiwan's scandal-ridden leader Chen Shui-bian is facing growing pressure to resign with the opposition stepping up calls for his ouster.
The island's second biggest opposition party, the People First Party (PFP), yesterday urged more people, especially youngsters, to take to the streets if Chen does not quit.
PFP caucus whip Lee Hung-chun cited media surveys as saying that nearly 70 percent of Taiwan people want Chen to step down.
"The PFP will stage protests every weekend until Chen quits," Lee was quoted as saying.
His statement followed a mass rally organized by the PFP outside the "presidential" office in Taipei on Saturday to demand Chen, whose approval rating has sunk to new lows amid a swirl of corruption scandals, to step down.
More than 10,000 people joined the four-hour event, at which both PFP Chairman James Soong and Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the island's biggest opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), demanded Chen's resignation. "Probe graft to the very end," said placards carried by the demonstrators.
Agitated protesters tossed water balloons at Chen's portrait in a demonstration of discontent over the authorities' slow response to scandals embroiling Chen's family and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Last week, Chen ceded some of his powers to "premier" Su Tseng-chang of the DPP in a bid to quell public dissatisfaction over the scandals, which involve Chen's son-in-law, several members of his inner circle, and according to the opposition Chen's wife.
Last Thursday, Chen's son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, was detained on suspicion of insider trading of shares in a government-owned property company. Earlier, the opposition had accused Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen of other financial wrongdoings.
If Chen fails to respond to public demands, the opposition has to call for his removal, Soong told the crowd, adding that if Chen's DPP remained deaf to the calls, the party must take responsibility for covering up for Chen. Chen has to step down before the full extent of the scandals is revealed, Taiwan media quoted Soong as saying.
Ma appeared at the assembly unexpectedly after the 1st plenary meeting of the 17th KMT convention and said that party members had reached a consensus that they would ask Chen to step down through whichever method that would prove most efficient.
Ma told protesters that Chen had claimed to "clarify himself," "conduct reformation" and "cede powers," but remained silent on whether he and his family were involved in the scandals.
His silence indicates that he had no remorse for what he had done, which is unacceptable to the public, Ma was quoted as saying.
The KMT leader said he supported the idea of asking Chen to step down, either through a direct motion to recall the "president" or a "cabinet" resignation.
"The people have lost faith and trust" in Chen, Ma said. "Only by (Chen's) stepping down can the truth behind the scandals be revealed."
Ma said Chen's decision to relinquish party responsibilities and let "cabinet" members make their own policy choices was a ploy to divert the public's attention from his family's "involvement in the scandals."
Chen's chief of staff yesterday rejected opposition calls for his ouster, saying he has done nothing wrong.
(China Daily June 5, 2006)