Tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets last night to join a symbolic "siege" of the Presidential Office as part of the anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) movement aimed at ousting him.
The "siege" started at 6pm, earlier than the scheduled 7pm, on Ketagalan Boulevard and then marched along roads around the Presidential Office and the Yushan Residence. The march stretched over 5.5km and concluded at around midnight at the plaza in front of Taipei Railway Station. The sit-in will continue on the plaza until Wednesday, before the camp moves back to Ketagalan Boulevard on Thursday.
As he arrived at the Taipei Railway Station, campaign leader Shih Ming-teh (
PHOTO: WALLY SANTANA, AP
He then led the crowd in shouts of "Long live Taiwanese people" and cheering for the "success" of the "siege."
"The siege tonight proved that Taiwanese people have the ability to clear away corruption and to uphold democracy, justice and peace," Shih said.
He called on the protesters to continue the efforts to oust Chen, urging them to parade on "if any regrettable accident were to happen to me."
"Let us keep fighting! A-bian Step Down!" Shih told the crowd before leading the march on a jeep along Ketagalan Boulevard.
One of the demonstrators, Lee Shu-chun (
"It angers me to see Chen Shui-bian still refusing to step down," Lee told the Taipei Times.
Waiting for friends at the National Taiwan University Hospital MRT station, Sophia Wu, who went to the march directly from work, said although she did not oppose the pan-green camp, she was opposed to the "corrupted Chen Shui-bian."
"Any corrupt official should step down. A-bian is the nation's leader -- he should pay heed to the demand of so many people," said Wu.
At another corner, a high-school student surnamed Tseng, who declined to give her first name, attended the march with her little sister and uncle.
"I came here after school at about 5 pm ... I think President Chen should step down because he is corrupt," she said.
Lin Cheng-chieh (
At 10pm last night the Taipei City Police Department estimated that 320,000 people attended the march, including 3,500 who were staying in the Taipei Railway Station.
According to the department, the march proceeded peacefully, with only minor incidents reported.
Taipei's Rapid Transit System Department said that more than 1.18 million people had taken the MRT by 9pm yesterday, 180,000 more than by same time last Friday.
The Taipei City Department of Heath said that four people were hospitalized for various reasons, including one passed out during the march. No violence-related injuries were reported.
Presiding over a briefing at the police department last night, Ma applauded the peaceful march and thanked the police for their hard work.
According to the Taipei City Police Department's Commissioner Wang Cho-chun (
The head of the National Police Agency, Hou Yu-yi (
To accommodate the anti-Chen crowd that swarmed to the southern square of Taipei Railway Station last night, the Taiwan Railway Administration announced that it would leave the entrances open all night so that protesters could enter to use the bathrooms and purchase personal items.
The administration also decided that it would halt the sale of platform tickets to ensure passenger safety.
The administration had used red tape to mark certain areas in the Station where protesters would be advised to disperse from.
Earlier yesterday during the sit-in, a 48-year-old man named Hou Guo-lung (侯國龍) tried to immolate himself with gasoline on the protest stage before camp staff dissuaded him from doing so.
Hou, from Kaohsiung, said he wanted use his suicide to protest against Chen's corruption and had prepared a suicide note.
Meanwhile, at a party to celebrate the 185th anniversary of Central American Independence Day yesterday, American Institute in Taiwan director Stephen Young said that the protests were part of democracy.
So long as the protesters held their campaign peacefully, they wouldn't violate the law, he said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan and Shelley Shan
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