Bloody mayhem as KMT party leaves

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 12:00am

Thousands in clashes over Lien Chan's 'journey of peace'

Taiwanese opposition leader Lien Chan's historic 'journey of peace' to the mainland got off to a bad start yesterday.

Thousands of pro-independence protesters clashed with Mr Lien's pro-unification camp at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport when the Kuomintang chairman and a 70-strong delegation were leaving for their eight-day trip.

Independence supporters, some wearing vests with the words 'Kill Lien Chan, Save Taiwan', shouted slogans, condemning Mr Lien as 'a traitor selling out Taiwan'.

Protesters, led by members of the Taiwan Solidarity Union and other radical pro-independence groups, were furious because they believed Mr Lien should not be visiting the mainland after Beijing enacted the Anti-Secession Law, which authorises the use of force against the island if it moves towards independence.

To counter the pro-independence activists, unification supporters led by New Party chairman Yok Mu-ming went to the airport to throw their weight behind Mr Lien's delegation.

Despite the deployment of about 1,700 police, several hundred pro-independence protesters broke into the departure lobby, where they scuffled with hundreds of Mr Lien's supporters.

Members of the rival camps chased and beat each other with sticks and threw stones and eggs. One pro-independence activist threw a bottle, while another waved a sabre.

Several people were severely beaten, with one lying on the ground in a pool of blood.

A small group of pro-independence activists attacked journalists and unification supporters with firecrackers, alarming travellers who feared that a gunbattle had broken out.

Outside the airport, thousands of protesters from the rival camps engaged in a shouting match. 'Oust Lien Chan. Ban him from returning to Taiwan', the pro-independence camp shouted.

In response, unification supporters called their rivals separatists who would destroy Taiwan.

In the confusion, former New Party Taipei county councillor Jin Chieh-shou was hit on the forehead by a stone and blood dripped down his face.

Police said at least 15 people were injured, most suffering head wounds.

Mr Lien was untouched, bypassing the VIP entrance - where a number of opponents were waiting - on the way to the departure lounge.

But his trip to the airport had been even more chaotic, with dozens of taxis driven by pro-independence drivers pursuing him on the freeway. One taxi almost hit one of the vehicles in his motorcade despite a heavy presence of police cars.

An alarmed Premier, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, condemned the violence and called for the guilty parties to be prosecuted.