Half-Million Taiwanese Protest Election 

Kalaulah rakyat Malaysia  berani macam mereka ini.......... Apabila sistem pilihan raya telah diperkosa, apakah lagi harapan yang boleh dipertaruhkan. Mangapa kita terlalu lembik????
Half-Million Taiwanese Protest Election

By STEPHAN GRAUWELS, Associated Press Writer

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A half million Taiwanese swarmed into island's capital on Saturday to protest the disputed presidential election, while rival China hinted it wouldn't let the turmoil drag on indefinitely.

The demonstrators many bused in from other cities put on yellow rain ponchos to protect them from a cold drizzle and filled up the wide boulevard in front of the Presidential Office. They chanted and listened to fiery speeches bashing President Chen Shui-bian.

The rally's start was peaceful a contrast from the day before when about 2,000 people stormed the Central Election Commission headquarters in Taipei. The mob broke glass windows and scuffled with police in an unsuccessful attempt to delay the formal certification of the election's results.

Protesters are demanding a recount of the March 20 presidential vote, which Chen won by a tiny margin. Opposition candidate Lien Chan claims the election was marred by irregularities, which have yet to be documented.

Chen's opponents also want an independent investigation into the bizarre election-eve shooting that wounded the president and the vice president, which many believe resulted in sympathy votes.

Protesters who believe conspiracy theories that Chen staged the shooting carried signs that said, "Democracy shot in the stomach" and "Shooting tricks shall be revealed."

Police estimated that about 500,000 people turned out for the demonstration.

"If it were a fair election, we could have accepted the result even if someone only won by one vote," said July Wu, a 36-year-old teacher.

Chen was officially declared the victor by the Election Commission on Friday, drawing congratulations from the United States that was condemned by China.

"We congratulate Mr. Chen on his victory," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, while recognizing the pending legal challenges of the results.

China expressed displeasure Saturday over Washington's message, saying it was "incorrect act" that undermined its commitment to Beijing's one-China policy. China still claims the island as its territory although the two sides split during civil war in 1949.

The admonition came one day after Beijing said it wouldn't "look on unconcerned" if the social turmoil in Taiwan continued. China didn't say what it might do, and it wasn't clear whether the comments were more than a ritual declaration of the mainland's rights over the island. Beijing previously has threatened to take over the island if it ever descends into chaos.

Taiwan snapped back that the statement was "rude" and "unreasonable." The government warned China against meddling in Taiwan's affairs.

The president, who campaigned on a platform of standing up to China, has agreed to a vote recount, but lawmakers disagree about how to amend election laws to accommodate it.

Lien, who pushes a more conciliatory line toward Beijing, has claimed that the shooting that lightly wounded Chen and Vice President Annette Lu affected the election and needs to be explained.

Police haven't made any arrests, but on Friday they released photos of an unidentified man hurrying away from the shooting scene. They asked the public to help identify the man, filmed by a security camera.

The president's Democratic Progressive Party, meanwhile, urged supporters to stay away from the rally and refrain from wearing hats or clothing with the party's logo.

Chartered buses from cities in southern Taiwan began rumbling into the capital Saturday morning, disgorging hordes of protesters who said Friday's violence didn't scare them away.

"That was a small minority of overexcited people. We still know our demands are reasonable, so we still have to persist and stay here," said Colin Wu, 38, an insurance salesman.

Some protesters held up pictures of Chen and the vice president as others beat the images with umbrellas.

The brown-brick Presidential Office was ringed by police buses, while streets leading to key government buildings and to the ruling party headquarters were barricaded.

At the tall marble Nationalist Party headquarters facing the Presidential Office, protesters were picking up white balloons with the word "Recount."

The Taipei city government requested that the protest end by Saturday evening, but organizers were vague about whether they would comply.

"If the protesters don't feel any goodwill from the president and feel they have to stay, wouldn't we be a heartless party if we withdrew all the portable toilets?" spokesman Alex Tsai said.

Kiriman: Abdullah, Mohd - 27.03.2004

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