Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Tainan sit-in canceled after clashes

STAFF WRITER , WITH AGENCIES

Taichung police yesterday erect barricades outside the Taichung Opera House, where demonstrations demanding that President Chen Shui-bian step down are scheduled to begin today.

PHOTO: CHAN CHAO-YANG, TAIPEI TIMES

To prevent a replay of the past three nights' violent clashes in Tainan City, the Tainan City Council yesterday canceled the last two days of an anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) sit-in.

Organizers of the sit-in, led by Tainan City Councilor Hsieh Lung-chieh (謝龍介) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), had originally obtained permission from the city government to stage a sit-in from 3pm to 10pm from Tuesday until tomorrow in a parking lot behind the city council building.

On the first day of the sit-in, a scuffle took place between pro-Chen supporters and the police, who tried to separate Chen's supporters from the protesters. Twenty-six people were arrested and at least 10 were injured in clashes.

More than 1,300 police officers were dispatched to the site on Wednesday, although further violent clashes were reported later in the day and again on Thursday.

Although police were on hand to maintain order outside the barbed barricades separating the parking lot from the adjacent streets, some pro-Chen supporters heckled the protesters and clashes broke out when the police used force to disperse the crowd on Thursday. Several civilians and police officers were injured.

While National Police Agency Director-General Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the nation's highest-level police commander, had apologized on Wednesday for the police's failure to maintain order at the Tainan sit-in and at a similar event in Kaohsiung on Monday, a number of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators from the Tainan City constituency yesterday accused the police of using "sticks and vicious moves" which had left several pro-Chen supporters injured.

Hou yesterday declined to comment.

"The police will enforce the law under any circumstances, no matter what kind of political pressure we might experience," Hou said.

Hsieh yesterday expressed regret about the cancellation of his group's sit-in, calling it a move that "severely damaged the spirit of Taiwan's democracy."

After the clashes in Kaohsiung and Tainan, security will be tightened in Taichung City today, where another anti-Chen rally is slated to take place.

"Nearly 2,000 police will be dispatched to maintain order. We will enforce the law with the strictest standards," Taichung police said.

Meanwhile, former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) urged all Taiwanese to ask themselves seriously whether they wanted harmony for Taiwan.

Lin, who headed the DPP from 1998 to 2000 and quit the party earlier this year, said he was sure everyone was concerned about the current political turmoil and hoped the confrontation between those who wish to unseat the president and those who support him would end soon to restore peace and stability to the nation.

Lin nonetheless added that "the end is not in sight."

Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang

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