Thousands protest election in Taiwan

Demonstrators demand recount amid violence

March 22, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Thousands of opponents staged a raucous sit-in yesterday to protest President Chen Shui-bian's narrow re-election victory, and a high court sealed ballot boxes to await a possible recount.

Chen's political rival, Lien Chan, urged supporters at a rally in Taipei to forge ahead with protests until judges agree to recount 13,000 sealed ballot boxes. A decision on the matter could come today.

As violent protests erupted in southern Taiwan, about 10,000 people jammed a boulevard in front of the presidential palace in the capital, Taipei.

Chen's apparent victory sent ripples across East Asia, including Beijing, where he is reviled for steering Taiwan on a course toward independence, and unsettling Hong Kong, where activists fear intensified hostility from a China intent on avoiding a clamor for democracy.

Chen squeaked out a narrow re-election triumph Saturday, winning by a margin of about 0.2 percent, or fewer than 30,000 votes of the nearly 13 million votes cast.

Chen, who suffered a grazing gunshot wound to the stomach by a would-be assassin while campaigning Friday, did not appear in public yesterday. But his office released photographs showing doctors treating him in an attempt to persuade the public that the attack wasn't phony.

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