News

WorldWire

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) ? Nearly 500,000 people, many clad in throwaway yellow ponchos against a cold drizzle, surrounded Taiwan?s presidential office and blocked major streets Saturday to protest last weekend?s disputed presidential election.
President Chen Shui-bian promised again Saturday night to back a recount of the election that he narrowly won, and endorsed an investigation into the bizarre shooting that lightly wounded him shortly before the vote.
Many protesters said the shooting gave Chen an unfair, last-minute boost at the polls. Others believe conspiracy theories that the president staged the shooting.
?This was a very dirty election. We want the truth,? said protester Carla Wang, a 56-year-old employee at a trading company.
Waving red Taiwanese flags, the protesters filled up the wide boulevards in front of the presidential office and spilled over into the side streets. Most were wearing disposable plastic rain ponchos to keep dry in a steady rain.
Some protesters brought a 15-foot-tall Statue of Liberty that had a tear in her eye and the slogan ?Strive for Justice? written on her body in Chinese characters. The crowd totaled 470,000, according to the Taipei city government.
The massive rally went on despite a vague warning from rival China?s saying that ongoing turmoil might become an excuse to take over the tiny island. Beijing has long insisted that Taiwan is a part of Chinese territory.
At the end of the four-hour rally, losing candidate Lien Chan of the Nationalist Party addressed the crowd and repeated his demands for a recount of the vote.
?If someone uses nasty means to gain power, such power won?t be effective and won?t be respected,? said Lien, a 67-year-old former political science professor and ex-vice president.
During a late-night news conference, Chen repeated his willingness to hold a recount, and he promised that he would accept the results. He challenged Lien to do the same.
The president said that if Lien formally petitioned the courts to nullify the results, he would endorse the move and urge judges not to bother holding hearings on the evidence so that the recount could be done immediately.
?We haven?t rigged the election, so why should we fear a recount?? Chen said.