TAIPEI: A month-long campaign to oust Taiwan's embattled "president" Chen
Shui-bian reached a climax yesterday as more than 1.5 million people gathered in
Taipei to demand Chen's resignation for alleged corruption, organizers said.
As Chen spoke at a "national day" celebration ceremony, about 50
"legislators" from the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party who had been
invited onto the stage shouted "Down with A-Bian," using his nickname, and made
the thumbs-down gesture.
Scuffles between members of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the
KMT broke out when security officers removed the opposition "legislators" from
the stage as they unfurled red banners accusing Chen of corruption and urging
him to resign.
Several blocks away, hundreds of thousands of people, most wearing red shirts
and hats to symbolize their opposition to Chen, rallied to demand he step down
over a string of corruption scandals that have embroiled him and his family in
"A-Bian Out," they roared.
The month-long anti-Chen campaign was launched by Shih Ming-teh, Chen's
former ally and former DPP chairman.
"Chen Shui-bian must respond to the demands of the people," Shih told
Barbed wire barricades erected by police prevented the protesters from
approaching the "presidential" complex.
Shih said the crowd which fanned out to fill boulevards leading from all
directions to the "presidential" square "exceeded 1.5 million" in a campaign
that aims to "lay siege" to Chen's office.
Organizers had pledged to bring 2 million people to the streets around the
"presidential" office, but police estimated 125,000 protesters took part in the
march. About 15,000 police and security officers were mobilized to maintain
KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou said Chen should listen to the protesters.
"Now that over 60 per cent of Taiwanese believe he's unfit to serve as
'president,' he must not continue to play dumb."
Pressure has mounted on Chen to step down after he was questioned in August
over alleged misuse of funds intended for "state" affairs. He has denied any
wrongdoing and vowed to stay on until his second and final term ends in May
Prosecutors said last week that Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, did receive and
spend about NT$300,000 (US$9,090) worth of department store vouchers which were
alleged to be gifts in exchange for lobbying favours but said they would not
prosecute her for lack of evidence. Their son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, was
indicted on July 10 on an insider trading charge. The case has not been