Mon, Sep 10, 2007 - Page 3 News List

`Red army' marks anniversary of protests

CANDLES AND THE WIND Protesters chose an unusual means of registering their continued disapproval of Chen Shui-bian, a year after they first took to the streets

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Surrounding the Chinese character Pi (屁, fart) formed by 300,000 candles, about 2,000 red-clad protesters gathered at Ketagalan Boulevard yesterday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the anti-corruption campaign launched to oust President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Rather than motivating supporters and leading participants to parade around the Presidential Office as it did last year, the campaign said the gathering was held to peacefully commemorate the movement while recalling the passion of the protesters and their continued opposition to corruption and Chen.

"The symbol of the Chinese character `Pi' formed by candle light is to tell A-bian that he is not worth a penny," campaign spokesman Jerry Fan (范可欽) said yesterday at the rally.

"We are here today to speak our minds, to express our continued anger at the government and to help the people and society to heal the wounds," he said.

The campaign, led by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), was launched on Sept. 9 last year with a sit-in in front of the Presidential Office calling on Chen to step down.

The month-long sit-in protest attracted thousands of people with more than NT$111 million (US$3.36 million) raised from public donations until the campaign lost momentum and eventually ended its rallies amid internal disputes and violent clashes following its "siege" protest last Oct. 10.

Shih, who had vowed not to end the protest unless Chen stepped down, showed up last night to address the rally.

Several supporters wearing red clothes started to gather on Ketagalan Boulevard in the morning before the rally formally started at 6pm.

"We need to voice our anger and disappointment at the corrupt government and Chen Shui-bian, even though I know that this rally won't get him to step down," a protester surnamed Hsu said.

Another participant, Kevin Liu agreed that people's disappointment with the government and Chen will not disappear.

"Chen will finish his term, and there's no way we can stop him. However, he needs to know that the people's anger hasn't died," Liu said.

Some participants, however, challenged Shih and the campaign for failing to fulfill their promises.

"Shih promised not to leave unless A-bian stepped down. A-bian is still in the Presidential Office, but Shih abandoned the campaign," a protester, who declined to reveal his name, said.

Former DPP legislator and campaign member Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰) held a press conference yesterday to condemn Shih for failing to stick with the campaign, and announced the formation of a "Nine Nine Association" to rekindle the "red army."

Pan-blue politicians who attended the protest last year, including Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), chose to distance themselves from the event this year.

"I didn't know about the gathering, and so I already have other plans. If the campaign's message is still anti-corruption, I will support it," Ma said on Saturday when asked whether or not he would attend.

The Taipei City Police Department yesterday sent about 1,000 police to the rally.

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