Chen completes grassroots tour

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Dec 29, 2002 - Page 1

Upon completion of his national grassroots tour, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday restated his determination to lead the nation away from its economic difficulties.

"During my visits these past months, I've heard much from the public. I've heard their complaints, suggestions and advice in light of the nation's economic malaise," Chen said yesterday at the Linchi Farm Resort in Chungpu Township (中浦), Chiayi County.

Two years and seven months into his presidency, Chen yesterday completed his tour around the country, having visited all of the nation's 319 rural and urban townships.

"I will keep in mind all that I've heard on the tour and will evaluate what I have been told," Chen said.

"The government will try its best, as quickly as possible, to salvage the nation's economy."

Noting that he'd heard the public's economic plight during his tour, Chen called on everyone to work together as the government strives to combat the sagging economy.

"We should work together, face the challenge and work for a better and brighter tomorrow," Chen, extending both of his arms in the air, said in the speech.

Ending the last leg of his tour in Chiayi County -- the same county where the tour first kicked off back in June 2000 -- Chen said yesterday that all his visits had allowed him to have substantial interaction with the public.

"During my visits to all these townships, I've discovered that although Taiwan is a small place, it is a very beautiful place," Chen said. "And its people are all very friendly and warmed-hearted," Chen said while sharing some anecdotes of his tour with the crowd.

Chiayi County's Waisan Tingchou (外傘頂洲) was the first destination of Chen's national tour, which he started one month after assuming presidency in May 2000. Chen was the nation's first president to ever visit the area.

According to Office of President spokesman James Huang (黃志芳), in the past 953 days, not only has President Chen visited all the nation's rural and urban townships, but also the nation's offshore islands, including Lanyu (蘭嶼), Green Island (綠島), Kinmen Islands (金門), Matsu Islands (馬祖), Tungsha (Pratas) Islands (東沙群島), Turtle Island (龜山島), and Hsiaoliuchiu islet (小琉球).

Some of the visits were made impromptu while other were made by invitation or planned beforehand, Huang said.

Aside from investigating local public projects or visiting disaster areas hit by typhoons, one could also catch a lighter side of Chen during his tour as he attended local school graduations, visited temples, ate deserts with elders on National Elder's Day, played chess with veteran serviceman or volunteered at a hospital.

While some townships can be easily accessed, others have bumpy roads and mountainous switch-back routes.

For example, because part of the only road that connected Alishan Township's Fengshan Village was washed away by typhoon Toraji's mudslides, Chen and his entourage of officials had to cross a makeshift bamboo bridge to reach the village.