This is sad, although Chen Sui Bien (A-Bien) has not seemed to have accomplished a lot domestically, I liked the way he stood up to China. He is likely guilty of personal crimes as well as being associated with criminals, however I think…no, I know China has agents all over making things 10X worse. China has been trying to use “soft power” to influence the Taiwanese electoric to get him out of power for some time.
September 28, 2006
Protesters Fuel a Long-Shot Bid to Oust Taiwan’s Leader
TAIPEI, Taiwan <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/taiwan/index.html?inline=nyt-geo>, Sept. 27 — Only a longtime democracy and independence activist like Shih Ming-teh, whose credentials include having his teeth shattered twice by guards during a quarter century in prison under martial law, would dare revive the color red in Taiwanese politics.
For the past 19 days, Mr. Shih has led a sit-in in front of the presidential palace here by red-clad demonstrators. They demand the resignation of President Chen Shui-bian <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/_chen_shuibian/index.html?inline=nyt-per>, the man who now runs the democracy and the political party that Mr. Shih helped to create.
Mr. Shih’s campaign, which has drawn up to several hundred thousand people during one evening’s rally but a dwindling crowd in the past few days, emboldened the opposition to start a long-shot legislative effort on Tuesday to recall the president. But Mr. Shih, a man sometimes described as the Nelson Mandela <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/nelson_mandela/index.html?inline=nyt-per> of Taiwan, is now leading a movement that, as he acknowledged in an interview, is heavily composed of Nationalists, his longtime enemies who once ran the country under martial law.
Leaders of President Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party, which Mr. Shih ran in the 1990’s as chairman, are bitter to see him now aligned with many Nationalists. “I hope he doesn’t forget those are the guys who tried to kill him, and now they support him as if he is a god,” said Mark Chen, the secretary general of the presidential office.
Mr. Shih’s choice of red for what he describes as an anticorruption, “people power” movement is especially surprising. The color is associated here with the Chinese Communist Party on the mainland and with Mao’s Cultural Revolution, a period of political persecution that lasted from 1966 to 1976.
Red was taboo in Taiwanese politics for decades after Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists fled here in 1949, following their loss in China <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/china/index.html?inline=nyt-geo>’s civil war to the Communists. Under martial law, the secret police engaged in a series of witch hunts for Communists, killing and imprisoning thousands; Mr. Shih and others like him who advocated democracy and political independence for Taiwan, when the Nationalists still claimed the mainland, were accused of treason.
Mr. Shih said there should be nothing the matter with red now. “I am a very confident man, and red has been politically labeled for too long in Taiwan — the people have the right to choose any color,” he said with a mischievous, closed-lipped smile.
Mr. Shih accuses the president and his family of corruption, but he is not the only one making that accusation. This summer, civil-service prosecutors charged the president’s son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, with insider trading and sought an eight-year prison term for him. Mr. Chao denied any wrongdoing, and the case is still pending.
Prosecutors are also investigating accusations that the president’s wife, Wu Shu-chen, may have obtained large numbers of gift certificates from a department store chain that was seeking government permission for a change of ownership. They have also looked at whether President Chen and his wife adequately accounted for money from a special fund personally controlled by Taiwan’s presidents for decades for use in secret diplomatic initiatives.
Mark Chen, the presidential office’s secretary general, who is also a former foreign minister and who is not related to the president, said in an interview at the presidential palace on Tuesday that “our president is clean and the first lady is clean.” He accused the Taiwanese media of inflating allegations of misconduct.
He also noted that the president, in an effort to clear his name and his wife’s, recently allowed prosecutors to interview him even though the Constitution grants him immunity from prosecution.
The Nationalists have repeatedly tried to push President Chen from office, staging violent protests after the president won re-election in a disputed vote in 2004.
Allegations of corruption are especially touchy in Taiwan. The Nationalists ended martial law in 1987 and then lost the presidential election in 2000, to a considerable extent because of popular indignation at widespread corruption. It was nicknamed the “black gold” issue here because many of the bribes and other illegal payments came from organized crime, and funereal-looking black suits are practically a uniform for many gangsters here.
By contrast, the Democratic Progressive Party has long presented itself as largely free of corruption.
Mr. Shih said that it would be better for the Democratic Progressive Party if President Chen stepped down instead of serving the 20 months remaining in his second term. With the president’s approval ratings below 20 percent in opinion polls, his continued stay in office could help the Nationalists win the Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections this December, legislative elections in December next year and the presidential election in March 2008, Mr. Shih suggested.
The party has hit back at Mr. Shih by releasing photographs of his recent meeting in Bangkok with a financier who is on Taiwan’s list of the 10 most-wanted fugitives for deals that have left Taiwanese banks facing large losses. But Mr. Shih said the entire sit-in effort, including a stage, a large-screen television and other supplies, had been paid for with donations of $3 apiece by a million citizens from across Taiwan.
Mr. Shih, who will turn 66 in January, is a leader of a generation of tough, street-wise demonstrators who fought Chiang Kai-shek’s police and languished in his jails. But charismatic lawyers like President Chen, 55, a graduate of National Taiwan University’s law school, pushed Mr. Shih’s generation of activists aside at a Democratic Progressive Party leadership conclave in 2000.
Mr. Shih practically disappeared from politics afterward, refusing even to accept a senior presidential appointment, and he has managed to return to the center of the political stage with his unusual campaign only in recent weeks. Beijing and American officials have stayed silent about the political dispute here. But President Chen did set off a controversy over the weekend when he said that people in Taiwan should “seriously consider” whether to come up with a new definition of its territory.
The Taiwanese Constitution vaguely defines this territory in a way that can be interpreted to include mainland China and even Mongolia. This definition allows China, the United States and other countries to maintain that there is still one China that encompasses Taiwan and the mainland. President Chen has repeatedly promised not to change sovereignty issues in the Constitution, which the mainland has warned could be the basis for war.
Weekend and evening rallies at the site of the sit-in since Sept. 9 have drawn crowds that peaked at more than 300,000 people on Sept. 15. But about 200 people were present at Mr. Shih’s sit-in on Wednesday morning, and some in Taiwan are wearying of the standoff.
Many are waiting for the results of the initial inquiry into the first lady’s activities, scheduled to be released sometime in October; Mr. Shih said he planned to start holding rallies against the president in other Taiwanese cities soon, and moved his sit-in on Wednesday evening from the presidential palace to the grounds of a nearby railway station. The presidential palace remains ringed with barbed wire as a precaution, and armored vehicles with mounted water cannons are parked inside.
Nobody here expects a repeat of either the street protests that have toppled presidents in the Philippines or the military coups that have periodically brought down governments in Thailand, most recently last week. Mr. Shih said he had urged anyone with the rank of a two-star general or above not to come to his demonstrations, even if they might sympathize.
“There will not be a coup in Taiwan,” he said categorically. “A neutral military is very important for a democratic country.”
Mr. Shih himself has a well-coiffed mane of dark hair and has not been lying in the street every night with his followers. Mentioning his long years in prison, he said, “If I look young, it’s because I was frozen for 25 years.”