Demonstrations turn up heat on Taiwan's beleaguered Chen

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am

Rallies near office involving 2,000 opponents mark start of sustained campaign

Tension is building in Taiwan as groups supporting and opposing the island's president, Chen Shui-bian, step up their protests.

Chanting 'Oust corruption' and 'Oust Ah Bian', about 2,000 members of an anti-Chen group yesterday rallied at a memorial park near the president's office.

'The rally today represents the angry voice of Taiwanese people fed up with corruption allegations linked to the family and the government of [Mr Chen],' said Chang Ya-chung, Democratic Action Alliance executive director, who organised the protest.

Prominent anti-Chen figures including Hsu Hsin-liang, former leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, gave speeches critical of Mr Chen and his government.

Mr Chen, who is under investigation over the alleged embezzlement of NT$36 million (HK$8.6 million) in state funds, has come under increasing pressure to resign after he and his family were implicated in a string of corruption allegations.

Mr Chen's son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, is being tried for alleged inside trading, while his wife, Wu Shu-chen, is being investigated over allegations that she accepted NT$5 million in department store gift vouchers in exchange for lobbying favours. Mr Chen's former chief aide, Chen Che-nan, has been charged with corruption.

Although Mr Chen survived a legislative vote initiated by opposition lawmakers in June to oust him, several people have demanded his removal from office, including the group led by Mr Chang and a bigger one established by former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh.

Mr Chang said his group would stage another protest today.

'We will march to the Martyr's Shrine in the morning and Ah Bian's residence in the evening, where we will perform a ritual to send the God of Plague away,' he said, using the nickname given to Mr Chen, who is to leave for Palau tomorrow on a four-day trip.

Meanwhile, several dozen Chen supporters braved a heatwave to stage a sit-in outside a temple in his home town in Tainan county.

'We're staging the sit-in to show our support for the president, and to voice our protest against those who want to bring down the president and create instability in Taiwan,' said Kuo Kuo-wen, DPP director for Tainan county.

Mr Kuo said the sit-in would last until next Saturday, when Mr Shih plans to amass 200,000 supporters in Taipei for a round-the-clock protest to demand Mr Chen's removal from office.

Mr Shih, who received endorsements from a million people in less than two weeks for his campaign to oust Mr Chen, has said the protest will be staged indefinitely until Mr Chen steps down.

Organisers of his 'One Million People Campaign to Oust Corruption' yesterday began what they called a 'warm-up' protest in front of the Presidential Office.

Hundreds of supporters were invited to join the rally, prompting nervous police to call for reinforcements to maintain order near the Presidential Office.

In a bid to firm up support from members of the pro-independence camp, the Taiwanese government declared yesterday that it would change the title of the island's international airport to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

The airport is known as Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, a title honouring late Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek. Premier Su Tseng-chang said his cabinet was expected to approve the name change on Wednesday to meet 'grassroots' expectations.