Fri, Feb 04, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Chen's aides tight-lipped over Kuantien `hongbao'

TAIPEI , CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has not disclosed how much money will be in the red envelopes he traditionally hands out to neighbors in his hometown of Kuantien, Tainan County, at Lunar New Year, according to Ho Yuan-po (何淵波), the Kuantien Township chief.

With only five days to go before the Feb. 9 New Year's day, Ho said there is no suggestion as to how much money the president will put in his red envelopes, the traditional gifts given on New Year's day.

Chen has handed out red envelopes to his neighbors every year since he was elected president in 2000, Ho said.

Usually, they contain NT$200, but the money was replaced last year by a NT$10 memorial coin because the presidential election in March sparked fear that the NT$200 might be considered by Chen's political rivals as vote-buying money.

The president's aides used to tell officials at the Kuantien Town Hall how much money Chen would hand out, but Ho said he has not been informed this year.

Enthusiastic neighbors, who consider a red envelope from the president more of a charm than a windfall, did not seem to care about the money, judging by the long line of chairs -- each one representing a person's place in the line -- already formed in front of Chen's home.

Chen also used to host a lunch party for leaders of his home town on New Year's day.

About 1,000 people were invited to the party last year, but only about 500 have been invited this year, according to Ho.

The party will be held in Liu-ying, Tainan County, and all guests will be subject to maximum security checks, which has not been the case in the past, Ho said.

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