Sun, Jun 04, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Thousands join pan-blue rally against Chen

By Mo Yan-chih and Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Children throw waterfilled balloons at a picture of President Chen Shui-bian's son-in-law Chao Chien-ming at a demonstration organized by the People First Party on Ketagelan Boulevard in Taipei yesterday to demand that Chen step down.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Thousands of protesters yesterday under the lead of the People First Party (PFP) took to the street calling on the president to step down and assume responsibility for the recent string of allegations of corruption involving government officials and the president's in-laws.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九), who had said on Friday that he would not attend, had a last-minute change of mind and headed to the rally in front of the Presidential Office after the KMT's national convention, which was also held yesterday.

With protesters waving flags, carrying signs and some throwing water balloons at President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) portrait demanding his resignation, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) rallied supporters on Ketagelan Boulevard and said that unless Chen steps down of his own accord, the protests would continue every weekend.

Soong also took aim at the KMT's plan to launch a campaign demanding the resignation of Cabinet members, saying that recalling Chen was a better and more direct way to deal with the problem.

Dissatisfied with what they called the KMT chairman's "weakness" and "impotence," some of the protesters directed their discontent toward Ma.

A group of PFP supporters tried to barge into the KMT's headquarters, located at the end of Ketagelan Boulevard, throwing eggs and setting a truck on fire to protest the KMT's passivity in response to the PFP's recall plea.

A man who claimed to be the owner of the burnt truck said later that he set fire to his vehicle to express his disapproval of the spate of scandals allegedly involving Chen's in-laws.

Ma later appeared at the rally, swamped by reporters and demonstrators as he walked to the stage. Hecklers shouted "Ma Ying-jeou is a coward!" and threw eggs at him, while others cheered him along the way.

Addressing the crowd, Ma said he supported the idea of asking Chen to step down, either through a direct motion to recall the president or a Cabinet resignation.

"The people have lost faith and trust in the president," Ma said. "Only by [Chen's] stepping down can the truth behind the scandals be revealed."

Ma said Chen's decision to relinquish party responsibilities and let Cabinet members make their own policy choices was a ploy to let the public forget his family's "involvement in the scandals."

Ma said that during the KMT's convention, party members had reached a consensus that they would ask Chen to step down through whichever method that would prove most efficient.

Both Soong and Ma called for more pan-blue cooperation.

Soong urged protesters to gather again next weekend to continue the demonstration against Chen.

Prior to appearing at the rally, Ma, addressing the KMT's 17th national convention, said: "I strongly demand that President Chen consider resigning from his post now to win some respect and sympathy."

Setting the tone for the KMT's position once again in response to mounting pleas from party members to recall the president, Ma said both the recall motion and the proposal to have the Cabinet resign should be held back until the time is right.

"The more upset the people are, the more the KMT needs to prepare before we act as a responsible opposition party. Otherwise any failed attempt would only disappoint the general public even more," he said.

Ma's remarks won the support of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who doubted the feasibility of both the recall motion and the proposed Cabinet resignation.

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