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Big rally demands inquiry into shooting
Updated: 2004-04-10 22:58

Protesters demanding to know whether last month's shooting of Chen Shui-bian was an election ploy clashed with riot police in central Taipei on Saturday, and police used water cannons to knock back the protesters.

Taiwan riot police clash with angry supporters of Lien Chan as they tried to storm a barricade outside Chen Shui-bian's office April 10, 2004. The violence erupted after more than 200,000 protesters marched in Taipei to demand an independent inquiry into an election-eve assassination attempt on Chen, which opposition supporters suspect was staged to win sympathy votes. [Reuters] 
Shouting "Chen Shui-bian step down!," the protesters threw bottles, tables and chairs at the barricades as an earlier peaceful rally of 200,000 people turned more violent.

The violence erupted shortly after the protesters gathered in front of the "presidential office" for a three-hour protest calling for an independent task force to investigate the unexplained shooting that wounded Chen and his running mate Annette Lu one day before the March 20 vote.

The protest was initiated by the ally of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP), who have jointly raced against the Democratic Progressive Party during the election in Taiwan last month.

At around 4:00 p.m., KMT Chairman Lien Chan, and PFP Chairman James C.Y. Soong came to the protest scene and made speeches.

"To seize power by using unfair and unjust means will never be accepted," Lien Chan said. "All the dirty tricks should be clearly exposed to all."

Again Lien Chan and James C.Y. Soong urged Chen to set up as soon as possible an independent task force to investigate the shooting case, and publicize the truth of the shooting.

Lien Chan, chairman of the Kuomintang, led the crowd to the "presidential office" to demand an independent inquiry into the shooting, but left shortly before the clash.

Many protesters believed the shooting helped swing crucial sympathy votes to Chen, giving him a razor-thin victory. The losing candidate, Lien Chan of the Nationalist Party, challenged the vote.

"The shooting happened three weeks ago, but no effort has been made to find a solution," said protester Carson Huang, a 46-year-old civil servant. "We need the voice of the people to force Chen to come up with an explanation."

So far, police have no suspects or solid leads on the shooting.

Taiwan riot police turn water cannons on protesting supporters of Lien Chan as they try to storm a barricade outside the "presidential office" in Taipei April 10, 2004. [Reuters]
After the protest ended, about 1,000 demonstrators lingered at the scene and began taunting and throwing bottles and rocks at police lined up on the other side of a barricade wrapped in barbwire.

The crowd calmed down at the urging of high-ranking Nationalist Party official Lin Fong-cheng. He accused the ruling party of infiltrating the crowd and starting the violence to sully the opposition's reputation.

The allegation drew a quick, angry reaction from Lee Ying-yuan, a senior official in Chen's Democratic Progressive Party.

"We demand that Lin Fong-cheng take back what he said by Monday. Otherwise, we'll go to court and file a lawsuit against the Nationalist Party," Lee said.

The demonstration has become a weekend tradition since Chen won the vote. A similar rally was held last Saturday, and police had to drag away protesters Sunday after they tried to camp out in front of the "presidential office."

On Saturday, a prominent Taiwanese-American forensics expert reconstructed the scene of the March 19 shooting of Chen and Annette Lu as they campaigned in the southern city of Tainan. The gunshots grazed Chen's stomach and hit Lu in the knee.

Henry Lee, who previously worked on the O.J. Simpson murder trial, spent four hours analyzing the shooting scene in Tainan, using beams of green light to trace the bullets' possible trajectory.

Lee said the bullets "absolutely" came from outside Chen's vehicle, but added there was not enough information to determine where the shooter was standing.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, of the opposition Nationalist Party, addressed the crowd.

Ma said Lee was only helping to analyze evidence and reconstruct the crime scene. The forensics expert would not be able to answer the biggest questions, Ma said.

"Who's the shooter? How did he operate? How much did the shooting affect the election? He can't help much with this," Ma said.

Lien Chan has already filed two petitions in the high court. One asks for a recount and the other requests a new election.

Lien tried to whip up the crowd at the end of the three-hour rally, giving a warning to Chen: "Don't underestimate us."

He accused Chen of acting like a dictator by not granting his demand for a special shooting commission.

"The democratic system in Taiwan is bleeding now," he said.

In another development Saturday morning, the lawyer group for the KMT-PFP ally held a press conference, declaring that the election of the Taiwan leader has not yet concluded in terms of legal integrity.

The lawyer group declared that the election result announced bythe "election committee" still faces challenge before the two appeals that "the election is invalid" and "Chen's election is invalid," proposed by Lien Chan and James C.Y. Soong, go through the legal affirmation.

According to the lawyers, the election involved two many suspected tricks and the election result shows democracy has been distorted.

What Taiwan people strive for is quality democracy, not merely casting the ballots, said the lawyers, adding that the people should not be manipulated, and only fairness can make the disputesin Taiwan conciliated.

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