Soong was gone, but his troops stayed

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Sun, Mar 20, 2005 - Page 1

Despite an order by People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong forbidding party members from attending yesterday's "319 Democracy, Peace and Truth" rally, a sizable number of PFP legislators marched with supporters anyway.

While Soong was nowhere to be seen, at least 10 PFP legislators, including Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋), Lee Yung-ping (李永萍), Sun Ta-chien (孫大千), Lee Ching-hua (李慶華), and Chiu Yi (邱毅) marched yesterday.

Chinese-language media reported that Soong had given orders on Friday that party members and legislators were to avoid yesterday's march. However, the party's legislative caucus countered the media reports during a press conference yesterday morning.

Confirming Soong would be absent, PFP caucus whip Chen Chih-pin (陳志彬) said that the party's legislators were free to attend the rally on an individual basis.

When asked about Soong's whereabouts yesterday, the PFP said that he was spending the day at home.

While Soong was being low key about yesterday's demonstration, PFP policy department head Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said that Soong believed last year's protests might have had a different result if properly handled.

Alluding to Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Chang said Soong believed that if "someone" had been firmer in supporting the protests, the result might have been different.

While Soong had no hard feelings against Ma, Chang said, he did feel that "it is a little late" for Ma to try to make up for the past.

Soong was originally one of the most vocal critics of the election result. However, Soong's Feb. 24 meeting with President Chen Shui-bian led commentators to speculate on changing relations between the PFP and the administration.

Soong felt that the pan-blue camp's efforts to uncover the details of the assassination attempt were better spent in the legal arena rather than organizing grassroots demonstrations, Chou said.

While KMT heavyweights such as Chairman Lien Chan urged unity within the pan-blue camp yesterday, at least one pan-blue leader was unhappy about Soong's absence.

Urging the pan-blue camp to continue its pursuit of "democracy, peace and truth," New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明) told supporters to "forget about the people who have left and care about those who are united."