The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will send volunteers to guard the Chungtai Temple (中台禪寺) in Puli, Nantou County, from harassment by DPP supporters incensed by the pan-blue leanings of the head of the monastery.
Since last Tuesday, when Buddhist Master Wei Chueh (惟覺) urged his followers to vote for the pan-blue camp in Saturday's presidential election, the temple has been the center of protests, forcing it to announce yesterday that it would be closing for a month.
On Sunday, more than 100 people went to the temple to express their opposition to Wei Chueh's speech, drawing about 250 police officers to keep the peace.
The temple has received several letters from protesters, according to temple spokesman Shih Jian-yun (釋見允), and a follower of Wei Chueh was harassed when he tried to enter the temple.
DPP legislative caucus leader Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said yesterday that the party's local chapter in Puli would soon form a guard to protect the temple.
"We don't want to be trapped in the pan-blue camp's trick of having itself tortured to win sympathy," Tsai said.
Tsai said that the DPP had called for its supporters not to overreact to Wei Chueh's support for the pan-blue camp's presidential candidate, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), and his running mate, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).
Tsai also suggested that pan-green supporters stay away from the temple to show their respect for freedom of speech.
"We respect Master Wei Chueh's decision, which will be judged by the tribunal of public opinion," Tsai said.
KMT legislators, however, have been quick to criticize the DPP.
"We don't think that the DPP respects the temple's right to speak," Legislator Wang Chung-yu (
KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (
"For example, we also respect the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan's in support of the DPP," Hung said.
PFP caucus leader Hsieh Chang-chieh (謝章捷) yesterday urged the Ministry of Justice and the police to investigate the case.
Many domestic and foreign tourists were blocked from entering the temple yesterday. Some of them expressed disappointment but could only take photos from outside.
As well as incurring the ire of pan-green camp supporters, Wei Chueh has been criticized by other Buddhist leaders.
Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hui (釋昭慧) said last Thursday that Wei Chueh's branding the referendum on Saturday as illegal and urging Buddhists to boycott it was anti-democratic and that his behavior humiliated Buddhist circles.