Despite the rain brought by Typhoon Shanshan, organizers said more than 200,000 people attended yesterday's rally in front of the presidential palace organized to counter the demonstration aimed at ousting President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
However, Taipei police authorities changed their past practice and refused to offer any figure, saying that the estimated crowd from organizers and the authorities had such a great discrepancy that from now on it would not release such statistics.
Chanting "Taiwan, jiayou (加油, an expression of encouragement)" and "A-bian (Chen's nickname), jiayou," thousands of demonstrators packed Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office to show their support for Chen and demand the resignation of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Secretary-General of the Presidential Office Mark Chen (陳唐山), who came on stage at around 4pm, promised that the President would stay on until May 20, 2008, when his term expires.
Mark Chen said the president could not attend the event because he had just returned from an inspection trip to Penghu.
"He wanted me to convey his regards and appreciation to you all and to tell you that he is determined to safeguard the democratic system established by the 23 million people of Taiwan," he said. "We will not allow people to use any outside means to destroy the system."
Lee Po-jien (李伯堅) and his girlfriend, Yeh Jen-fei (葉珍妃), said that they decided to attend yesterday's rally because they were disturbed by the anti-Chen demonstration.
"If they can ask a popularly elected president to resign, why do we need elections?" said Lee, 33. "Democracy is a system where people can use their votes to elect somebody who they consider fit to govern the country and not to elect that person in the next election if they think he has performed poorly."
Yeh called on those demanding the president's resignation to wait for the completion of the judicial inquiry into the alleged corruption involving him and his family.
"Or what is the use of having the Judicial Yuan?" she said, adding that she never doubted the innocence of the president.
Lin Fu-sheng (林復生), a 43-year-old blind Taipei man, said that he came to the rally because of his fundamental belief in democracy.
"I totally respect the voices of those who are calling for the resignation of President Chen," he said. "However, I personally believe in the innocence of the president and I will also respect the judicial investigation."
Leading the crowd in chants of "President Chen, jiayou" and "long live Taiwan Republic," DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun called on the people of Taiwan to stand up and support the president.
Support legal means
"The president represents the country and national sovereignty. We must support him unless he is found guilty of treason, collaboration with the enemy or selling out Taiwan," he said. "We oppose any unconstitutional methods used to force him out of office, but we support the use of legal means and ballots to resolve the problem, no matter who the president is."
Yu then blamed the KMT chairman for approving the 24-hour sit-in organized by former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) and therefore creating social unrest.
"Ma is fully responsible for the current social instability. He is the main culprit," he said. "Taiwan cannot afford more turmoil. I am calling on Ma to show some guts and stop being so weak."
The people deserve to return to their normal daily life and the country must focus on improving the economy, Yu said.
"Many people braved the bad weather and came here today. It shows your sturdy support for Taiwan," he said. "We, Taiwanese people, cannot be ruined nor defeated by the `red terror' exerted by the anti-Chen campaign."
Tseng Kei-hai (曾貴海), vice president of the Taiwan Society, criticized the China Times and United Daily News -- both pro-unification Chinese-language newspapers, and CtiTV for painting a negative picture of Taiwan and imposing on the good nature of the people of Taiwan.
"If you love Taiwan, don't watch CtiTV, TVBS or read China Times and United Daily News" he said.
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