Mon, Feb 19, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Leaders spend day at temples

NEW YEAR The president and vice president also handed out red envelopes to the party faithful in Tainan, and Lu was less ambiguous about her future plans than before

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's leaders celebrated the Lunar New Year yesterday by visiting temples, but nevertheless made a few comments about next year's presidential election.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) spent the day, which was also his birthday, handing out hongbao (red envelopes) in his hometown of Kuantien Township (官田), Tainan County.

However, well-wishers were disappointed by the absence of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), who was too ill to be present. It was the first time Wu had missed the event since Chen became president, and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) filled in for her.

Chen and Wu have faithfully followed the precedent set by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) by handing out red envelopes to well-wishers on Lunar New Year's Day.

This year's red envelopes were a little bit different: Instead of a picture of the lunar animal of the year, they were emblazoned simply with the word "Taiwan."

Each envelope contained a NT$10 coin and a picture of a little girl putting a coin into a piggy bank to welcome the Year of the Pig.

Thousands of people line up every year for the chance to receive a red envelope from the president. Many stake out a spot in line days ahead of time by placing a stool or a chair in their place.

Chen Chao-shou (陳朝壽) of Taipei County was the first person to receive a red envelope from the president yesterday. He said he had camped outside the president's parents' home for about a week.

Last year, Chen Chao-shou engaged in a shoving match with another person in line, who insisted that he had been first.

Later, President Chen treated villagers to fried rice noodles and fish ball soup before going to Tai-tien Temple in Matou (麻豆), Tainan County.

Before traveling to Tainan, President Chen and Lu visited a number of temples, including Huei-an Temple in Kuantien and Taipei's Pao-an and Hsing-tien temples.

When approached by the media in Taipei, Lu was less ambiguous than before about her election plans and admitted that she is in the process of consulting with her advisers.

Lu said she was not surprised by mounting speculation that Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun would soon announce his intention to run in the presidential race and wished him good luck.

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jou (馬英九) also visited temples yesterday, in both Taipei City and Taipei County.

Ma, who announced his intention to run in the presidential election on Tuesday, said that he had not yet selected a running mate.

Responding to a question, Ma said he would not feel "awkward" when meeting with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) today.

The two have developed a strong rivalry since competing in the KMT's chairperson election last year. Wang is expected to announce his presidential bid after the Lunar New Year holiday.

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