Sat, Sep 16, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Tens of thousands join protest `siege'

STREETS OF SCARLET The rain didn't deter throngs of people from joining Shih Ming-teh's anti-Chen march last night as it made its way to Taipei Railway Station

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh, center, leads tens of thousands of anti-Chen Shui-bian protesters on Friday on a march en route to Taipei Railway Station, where they were to continue their sit-in protest.


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 (施明德) shed some tears and kneeled down on the stage in front of the crowd.

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 (李淑君), said she had not taken part in the sit-in protest at Ketagalan Boulevard, but decided to join the march because Chen was continuing to ignore the public's appeals.

"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 (林正杰), chairman of the Chinese Unity Promotion Party, who attracted media attention earlier when he attacked Contemporary Monthly's editor-in-chief Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒) during a TV show, caused a stir during the march when he lit up some fireworks. He was later removed by the police.

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 (王卓鈞), a total of 3,893 officers, including 1,970 police from the National Police Agency, were deployed to maintain order during the "siege."

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