Sat, Nov 08, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Violence ends, finger-pointing begins

WHO’S TO BLAME? The government and the opposition yesterday blamed each other for inflaming the situation and causing the protesters to clash with police

By Mo Yan-chih And Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Taoist priests recite scriptures and sprinkle water at a ceremony to bless the construction of a new cultural annex to the Chang Ho Kung temple in Hsinchu yesterday.

PHOTO: HUNG MEI-HSIU, TAIPEI TIMES

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) traded accusations yesterday, with each side blaming the other for chaotic protests during Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit to Taipei.

Violent protests against Chen’s visit during the past four days have resulted in clashes between police and protesters. The week of protests culminated on Thursday when tens of thousands took to the streets near the Presidential Office to protest President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) meeting with Chen.

The protesters later moved on to the Grand Hotel, where Chen was staying. A number of police, protesters and reporters were hurt in the ensuing clashes that continued into the early hours of yesterday morning. Protesters eventually left the area after the government dispatched riot police with a water cannon to the scene.

In an interview with China Television Co (CTV, 中視) yesterday, Ma urged DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), whose party organized Thursday’s protest, to take responsibility for the violence.

“You can’t just mobilize a crowd to attend a rally and then say the protesters were not your people when violent incidents occur. Is that being responsible? I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Ma said.

Ma also defended the tight security measures protecting Chen during his visit.

Ma said the police were concerned about the DPP’s threat to follow Chen around during his visit and protest against him in various ways, including throwing eggs, and that security had been stepped up after ARATS Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing (張銘清) was jostled when visiting Tainan.

Ma condemned the violent protests and said the government would review its security measures.

At the legislature yesterday, KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said: “The DPP is the party who brought these protesters onto the streets. The DPP left them on the streets after nightfall. The DPP then spread the word that they were not in charge of the protesters and that they were on the streets of their own will. This is entirely false. The DPP is cowardly in not admitting the truth, that they led the protests.”

The KMT also said Tsai had shamed democracy and tarnished the nation’s image.

“Tsai Ing-wen should immediately hold a press conference to admit responsibility and apologize to the Taiwanese people,” KMT Legislator Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) said.

In response, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said that the Ma administration had used police to suppress peaceful protests.

“That suppression was the means by which Ma dealt with the protesters. Police used excessive force. These are the causes of the chaos of the past few days,” Ker told a press conference, accusing the Ma administration of violating the Constitution by “not allowing the public to express their views on the streets.”

The DPP said yesterday that the government should not smear the DPP and paint the party and Tsai as violent in nature.

Tsai told a separate press conference yesterday that a small number of protesters had started pushing down barriers and throwing plastic bottles, dirt and stones at police when a crowd had formed in front of Jingfumen (景福門), where DPP politicians were making speeches.

The party leadership had attempted to calm them down and asked them to stop attacking the police and they had emphasized throughout the protest that the DPP was a reasonable and peaceful party that does not welcome people who use violence, Tsai said.

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